18 Apr 2017

Lime choppered into Edgecumbe to control flood stench

5:23 am on 18 April 2017

Tonnes of lime are being helicoptered into the flood-ravaged town of Edgecumbe today to help control the stench of mud mixed with sewage.

Truckloads of ruined furniture are being driven out as volunteers from all over help to clean up the mess.

Fourteen red stickered houses are still off limits, but people have been allowed to start cleaning up the more than 200 homes that the flooded Rangitāiki River poured through almost two weeks ago.

Furniture, clothes, TVs and the entire contents of some homes are piled up in heaps along the roadside as people tackle the enormous mess left by the flooding.

Volunteer Nate Minchington was among the more than 200 people bussed in each day over the weekend to help clean up.

He has been handing out white boiler suits, gloves and dust masks and said the task ahead was enormous.

"You've got whole households and when you see it on the curbside, one houseload takes more than its own curbside space.

"We've only kind of done every second or third house because there's no room to do all the ones in between, put stuff on the curb, so there's days and days and days of this for people and we've just got to find a way to help them get through it."

Up to 30 skips were being filled and emptied twice a day with up to 20 truckloads being taken to Tauranga each night.

'A kick to the guts'

Household items are being piled on the curbside.

Household items piled on the curbside. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

At the end of Matipo Place, Becca Horton was helping her brother clear his property after flood waters a metre deep went through his home.

She said she did not realise how bad it was and coming back "was definitely a kick to the guts".

Nearby, Roger Gisler was cleaning out silt and most of his possessions from his home.

"Devastating and basically just figure out what's to save and what's to chuck, and get to the insurance and get everything rolling."

He said it was still hard to believe what had happened.

"You know I think it's not even soaking in properly so far, you just think about it when you go to bed at night and it's hard, you know, I just hope everyone gets help so we can go on with our lives again."

The volunteers included people from Auckland and Tauranga.

Nate Minchington lives in nearby Whakatāne but knows all about disasters, having moved up from Christchurch four years ago.

"We've been through all of this disaster kind of thing before and realised that actually what everybody needs at a time like this is actually just everybody to muck in and do what they can to help."

David Lailach and Maike Kohler

David Lailach and Maike Kohler Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

German couple David Lailach and Maike Kohler were among the helpers.

They ditched their stint at a dairy farm after seeing the flooding on the news.

"We decided very spontaneously to pack our stuff in our campervan, through it in and then drive all the way up here and give people a help, a hand," Mr Lailach said.

"We know how it is for people when there's flooding because we had it in Germany in 2002 so we know that the people need every help that they can get," said Ms Kohler.

Volunteers will continue working through the rest of the week.

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