WELLINGTON: A state of emergency has been declared in Westland, New Zealand as torrential rain brought floods in the region with Wahiho Bridge in the south of Franz Josef Glacier getting totally washed away.
The Westland District Council declared the emergency earlier this evening, as there is a raised risk to life and injury for local residents and further risk to property, radio New Zea Land reported.
The heavy rain raised rivers to record levels, closed roads and prompted evacuation warnings in the area. Some parts of the Westland face up to 800 millimetres of rain during the downpour.
The Waiho Bridge connects south Westland to the rest of the West Coast and is a vital link for the tourist centres of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Transport Agency senior network manager for the region Colin Hey told Morning Report it was a “kitset bridge that we can erect quickly”.
Police have named the woman who died in floodwaters north of Hokitika after getting out of her car and trying to cross surface flooding on foot.
The body of Gloria Reardon-Hirst, 66, was pulled from flood waters in Arahura Valley.
Westland civil defence controller Simon Bastion said it had been a “horrendous” and “scary” 24 hours on the West Coast.
A 48-hour rainfall record was set at the Hokitika catchment of the Cropp River which had 1086mm, or more than a metre, of rain. That beat the previous two-day record, set in December 1995, by about 40mm.
The rain is tracking north today away from the West Coast but low-lying properties in Hokitika were surrounded by water today.
The water didn’t quite make it into Samuel McArthur’s house but was just below the floorboards.
He said the water rose quickly last night – about a foot in the space of about four hours.
“It was a bit of a shock when you look out there at 10 pm and go ‘oh shit, better move the cars out’.”
Hokitika man Jim Cowan and his wife have had the downstairs part of the house inundated with water for the fourth time. They spent all day yesterday moving items upstairs to keep dry but had to abandon the washing machine and dryer.
The Hokitika and Haast rivers came close to breaching but waters receded from high tide. Some Hokitika residents had been on standby to evacuate but were able to stay in their homes.
Power disruptions at Haast and inland from Hokitika are ongoing. Transpower is aware of these and are working to restore power as soon as possible, Civil Defence said.