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Flood-ravaged communities face big cleanup

Published: 5:46AM Thursday December 15, 2011 Source: ONE News

Many in the Nelson-Tasman area remain homeless tonight after record-making rains lashed the area, causing floods and slips.

Rain has stopped in the region and river levels are receding, but a state of emergency remains in place as the threat of slips remains.

Towns in Golden Bay are still isolated after a part of State Highway 60 washed away.

Around 150 people were evacuated from their homes and there have been reports of more than 70 land slips.

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More than 200 landlines are out in the Tahunanui area of Nelson, and they are not expected to be restored until December 22, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence said this evening.

Another 300 telephone lines are out in Britannia Heights, while many in the Tahuna Hills area are without power.

Residents are being urged to stay off the roads and keep away from floodwaters as they may be contaminated with raw sewerage.

People in Dovedale and Pohara should boil water before use, while Nelson, Mapua, Pohara and Takaka residents are being asked by Civil Defence to conserve water.

The main road into Nelson, Rocks Road, is among those closed in the city.

*See a full list of road closures

Welfare centres have been set up in Richmond, Nelson and Takaka.

Transpower crews have been moved into the city this afternoon in the event the flooding causes damage on the Kikiwa to Stoke line.

Chief executive Patrick Strange said patrols have identified earth movement near some towers.

Strange said the company is being prudent, because if the line is damaged, power could be cut to the upper South Island.

Battered communities

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said some of the worst affected areas were Pohara Valley in Golden Bay, where up to 30 homes were affected after a dam burst and the port hills in Nelson, which have had numerous slips.

The threat of landslides forced the evacuation of some Nelson residents, with Bob Gordon being one of the first to be evacuated from his home yesterday.

The house was badly damaged by a slip, buckling the doors inside.

Gordon later returned with his daughter to collect anything that could be salvaged, and took away as much as he could carry.

"Mud's right up to the windowsills, past the windows. From outside you can look inside the window and about 3 inches of mud, and that window sill's 5 feet off the ground," he said.

In Tasman's Pohara Valley 20 homes were evacuated last night.

It is one of the coastal beachside settlements virtually cut off from the nearby town of Takaka.

In resident Chris Udell's living room silt and water has nearly reached the roof.

"We drove back up the road and there were logs and brown water coming down the road to meet us," Udell said.

The heavy rain created a flash flood behind his house bringing down debris, including a caravan.

"I'm a plumber by trade so I know what water can do. But my family's good, it's only a house, it's only possessions - we can rebuild, we can replace," he told ONE News.

Not far from the Udell's home, around seven houses are isolated after their road was completely washed out.

MetService weather expert Mark Pascoe has a river running through his front yard.

In nearby Ligar Bay, pictures received by ONE News show it too is awash with mud and debris.

"It is just like the tsunami in Japan," said local resident Betty Jefferson.

"It's exactly what it looks like, boats, caravans, sheds, water tanks, logs right through house. If it had been in the dark, we would have had lives lost."

Far North deluge

Rain is also battering other parts of the North Island, including parts of the Far North.

Residents of Kaeo, a town often affected by heavy rain, are now asking why the council is waiting so long to build preventative stop-banks.

"Every time it rains it just goes underwater, it's a normal thing. We really are becoming a ghost town, and this (flooding) is not helping us," said one local sitting in traffic today.

In November Northland Regional Council announced a plan to build a stop-bank either side of State Highway 10 to deflect floodwaters from the township.

But that is not due to start until the summer of 2012 because the council is waiting on resource consent.

But Gaylene Renata and her sister Patricia say they need it now.

"We do this every year, waiting for the flood to go down, can't get to work, can't get back from work," said Gaylene.

SH1 at Rangiahua Bridge between Kaitaia and Ohaeawai in Northland has been re-opened after surface flooding closed it for several hours.

Rain to hit BoP, Canterbury

The front that brought heavy downpours to Nelson and Northland is moving east and will finally clear the country tomorrow.

A lengthy period of rain with the potential to cause flash flooding is expected in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula tomorrow.

Significant falls are also expected in Bay of Plenty and Tongariro National Park through to the early hours of tomorrow, but these are not going to be anywhere near the scale of those that fell in Nelson, MetService says.

Those in these areas are advised to keep an eye on rapidly rising rivers and streams, which could cause surface flooding and slips, and NZTA is urging motorists to drive to the conditions.

Anyone with queries relating to the flooding should ring the Government helpline on 0800 7799977.

- With Newstalk ZB

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