Edgecumbe volunteers 'still coming in off the street'

2:31 pm on 15 April 2017

An army of volunteers has taken to the streets of flood-stricken Edgecumbe this morning to help with the clean-up.

Edgecumbe volunteers for Ngāti Awa  Volunteers Army help out at Ruaihona Marae.

Edgecumbe volunteers for Ngāti Awa Volunteers Army help out at Ruaihona Marae. Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

The volunteer initiative is being organised by Ngāti Awa, the district and regional councils, Red Cross and Māori wardens.

Dozens of people are filling wheelbarrows with wet carpets, rotten food and flood-damaged furniture and emptying the contents into big skips.

Close to 100 volunteers are on the ground helping with the clean-up today, and more are expected to arrive throughout the day and the rest of the weekend.

So far more than 540 had registered to help.

Efforts were being coordinated out of the local marae, and one of those doing the coordinating, Hakahaka Hona, said he was not surprised by how many people had offered to help.

He said volunteers were working closely with whānau to see how they could help, and they had a lot of work ahead of them.

"We're pulling up carpets, removing rubbish, rotten food waste, the dirt and the soot where the diggers and bob cats couldn't get to.

"The streets have all been done with the machinery and the volunteers will take care of the things they couldn't reach, and sorting stuff for the whānau," he said.

Hakahaka Hona is one of the organisers for the Ngāti Awa Volunteers Army.

Hakahaka Hona is one of the organisers for the Ngāti Awa Volunteers Army. Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

He said volunteers just kept coming to see if they could join in efforts.

"They're still coming in off the street, a lot of whānau don't like to fill out the form and register, so we'll never truly know really how many volunteers are helping".

He said the volunteers would only enter homes they had been welcomed into.

"We're trying stick to looking after the families' interests - only through communication with the families will they go in and clean their house."

Meanwhile, another 229 Edgecumbe residents were expected to be able to get back to homes this afternoon, though most of them would not be able to stay in the flood-damaged buildings.

Rubbish being loaded onto a truck.

Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

Warning not to use hose or rubbish transfer station

Edgecumbe residents were also urged not to hose or wash mud and silt into drains as the post-flood clean-up continues.

Civil Defence controller Paula Chapman said it could block pipes and cause flooding when further rain came.

Residents are advised to pile mud and silt on the berms outside, or near, their properties, for collection.

The council is also warning people not to take rubbish to the Whakatāne Transfer Station, which it said was already full of mostly storm-related debris.

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