8 Mar 2017

Evacuated Whiritoa residents return home

9:37 pm on 8 March 2017

Evacuated residents in Whiritoa south of Whangamata are back in their homes tonight after severe flooding cut the small town off.

Flooding and slips have cut off Whiritoa, in the Coromandel.

Flooding and slips had cut off Whiritoa. Photo: Supplied / Anna Kenna

Heavy rain overnight and through today has caused widespread flooding in parts of the Coromandel Peninsula, making roads in some low-lying areas impassable.

Three areas along State Highway 25 around Whangamata, Whiritoa and between Tairua and Kihuai will remain closed overnight due to multiple slips and flooding and are not expected to re-open until 5pm tomorrow.

The Transport Agency says the State Highway between Tairua and Hikuai is expected to reopen at 7am tomorrow.

Multiple business and houses in Whangamata have been flooded and three houses have been evacuated and a couple had to flee their home because a slip.

The small town of Whiritoa is only accessible to residents in an emergency after large slips both in an out of the town.

The Coromandel District Council said State Highway 25 from Hikuai to Tairua was closed with Pauanui cut off and Tairua inaccessible from the south.

A slip on State Highway 25 at Whiritoa, on the Coromandel Peninsula.

A slip on State Highway 25 at Whiritoa, on the Coromandel Peninsula. Photo: NZTA

The travel plans of some tourists were disrupted by the Coromandel Peninsula flooding.

The torrential downpours also caused widespread flooding and power cuts in the upper North Island.

The head of civil defence said the flooding in the Coromandel region was the worst in more than a decade.

Pauanui remains inaccessible.

The torrential rain in east Coromandel was about a one-in-100-year event, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said. Some areas received more rain in two days than normally fell in the entire month.

Controller Garry Towler told Checkpoint with John Campbell some houses may be unsafe.

"[There has been] extensive flooding right throughout, especially on the eastern seaboard and we have had to evacuate a number of people, especially from Whangamata.

"[And] the building inspector has just passed some bad news [to some people] that their houses are possible going to be unsafe."

Mr Towler said the road from Hikuai to where it turns off to Pauanui will likely remain closed overnight.

French tourists Christine and Jean-Jacques Larzul waiting at road closure on State Highway 25 between Whiritoa and Waihi.

French tourists Christine and Jean-Jacques Larzul waiting at road closure on State Highway 25 between Whiritoa and Waihi. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Tourists are waiting it out at the road block or in Waihi township.

French traveller Christine Larzul and her husband said they were prepared to sit it out in their camper van for a few hours.

She said it was the first bad weather they have had in New Zealand for a month and it was a bit of an adventure.

Other tourists said there was little that could be done and they were in the hands of the weather.

Torrential rain easing as tide comes in

The Rhodes Park in Kopu is flooded but some are still finding ways to have fun.

The flooded Rhodes Park in Kopu, near Thames, offered some fun for some. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The torrential rain has eased in Coromandel, and Civil Defence is hoping that will lessen the impact of the high tide.

Some of the flooding and stormwater is subsiding, but more heavy rain is expected tomorrow afternoon.

Whiritoa remains cut off by slips to all but emergency services.

Civil Defence Controller Gary Towler said they struggled to cope with the deluge but they're getting on top of it.

He said the 31 evacuees in Whangamata - mostly schoolchildren from a camp - would remain in an evacuation centre overnight.

He said all water supplies were back to normal and the wastewater system in Whangamata and Onemana had been restored.

Flooding widespread

State Highway 25 between Kopu and Thames is now open to one lane

Widespread flooding has closed SH25 in multiple places. Photo: Thames-Coromandel District Council

There was widespread flooding in Whangamata, Hikuai, Tairua and Pauanui, affecting businesses and homes.

A major slip on Park Avenue in Whangamata threatened three homes, so two people were evacuated, Mr Towler said.

State Highway 35 between Hikuai, Tairua and on to Mercury Bay remained closed and would stay that way overnight.

Multiple parts of State Highway 25 are closed because of flooding and slips - at Whiritoa, Whangamata, Tairua, Kereta and Whitianga. The highway was open to one lane between Kopu and Thames.

Campers rescued

Flooding in the Coromandel, at the turnoff to Pauanui.

Flooding in the Coromandel, at the turn-off to Pauanui. Photo: Supplied / Jason Belchur, Paku TV

This morning, 30 school children were evacuated from a campsite and taken to the Whangamata Civil Defence Centre.

A group of about 20 campers were stranded in Wentworth Valley, south of Whangamata.

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