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Coast hit hard by record rainfall

Wednesday 23 March, 2022

A state of emergency has been declared in Tairāwhiti after record rainfall overnight, with Te Puia, Tokomaru and Tolaga bays bearing the brunt of the weather.

People have been evacuated from their homes at Mangatuna, Uawa, Anaura Bay, Kaiawa, Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay, with some self-evacuating. They have been heading to whānau, marae and the local fire station. CDEM community link volunteers went door to door in the early hours in some areas to alert families.

Some of the rainfall figures have exceeded the one in 100 year levels, with Te Puia having 236mm between 6pm and midnight. The Upper Hikuwai River experienced 234mm over the past 24 hours, with Mata, at the headwaters of the Waiapu receiving 234mm and the Hikuwai at Willowflat 222mm. The Hikuwai River peaked at 12.8m and while it is dropping more rain is expected from later tonight.

State Highway 35 is closed from Okitu north, with the bridge at Tokomaru Bay washed out. A number of local roads are also closed. One person was successfully rescued from a car that ended up in the river at Tokomaru Bay. Power lines are down across roads with numerous slips and people are being encouraged to look out for any lines across roads.

David Wilson, group controller for Tairāwhiti Civil Defence, who declared the state of emergency at 6.30am, is asking people to stay off the roads and urging people to call in damage and flooding to Council’s 0800 653 800 number. “Have a plan in case you need to evacuate and check on whānau and neighbours. Please do let us know if anyone needs help,” he said.