Napier flooding: Rain keeps falling, schools closed, after second sleepless night

Sixty people are in emergency shelters, power is still out and up to three schools remain closed in Napier this morning as the city remains under water.

The city remains under a state of emergency after record-breaking amount of rain dumped over the city on Monday.

Residents in some low-lying suburbs remain trapped in their houses and a number of cars are still stranded in the middle of roads that have become lakes.

Emergency services, the Minister for Emergency Services Kiri Allan and Napier’s Mayor Kirsten Wise have held a press conference to update on the situation.

Allan announced a temporary relief fund for the Mayor to help welfare needs of $100,000. A helpline was also established to offer support for struggling residents, she said.

She praised Wise and volunteers for helping significantly impacted families in their “time of need.”

She said emergency services would continue to assess the needs of the community both from a welfare and infrastructure point of view.

A fire and emergency spokesman said another 30 people were evacuated overnight to emergency accommodation. That meant around 60 people were in emergency shelters.

More rain had fallen overnight than had been expected.

A real priority was to get to vulnerable members of the community where floodwaters were the worst.Access to the area was challenging.

Unimog vehicles were being used to reach people trapped in homes, he said.

Urban search and Rescue teams were currently working on the Napier Hill where 18 homes were deemed uninhabitable. Homes that were significantly damaged were all on the hill.

Wise said the mayoral fund would immediately focus on the needs of those who had been forced from their homes.

The fund would enable her to work with the community and identify the biggest needs.

Allan said she would be visiting local iwi who were providing a response to flood-affected whanau.

She said they were at preliminary stages of assessing the damage and what support was needed.

This morning more than 70 homes still have no power.

The Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group described the past 12 hours where more rain fell on the sodden region as an “anxious night for many”.

More rain today

MetService meteorologist David Miller said unfortunately the flood-ravaged city could expect more rain today and it wouldn’t be letting up until tonight.

The region was under a heavy rain watch with 40-60 mm due to fall today. While it was not expected to be as much as Monday because of the flooded terrain Miller warned it was likely to create more problems.

Napier residents reported a sleepless night with heavy downpours pelting rooftops and previously receding water levels beginning to rise again.

Three schools across the water-logged city remain closed for a second day. Napier Girls’ High School this morning posted on Facebook it would not be open today however the library would be open for students who wanted to study there.

All main highways in the region are open but the New Zealand Transport Agency is advising to drive to the conditions and take extra care.

Families take refuge

Meanwhile, families flooded out of their homes are taking refuge in the evacuation centre at Kennedy Park.

The Wepa family decided to leave their house on Monday evening when the water started rising, nearly reaching the front door.

There were nine of them in the house including seven adults, and two babies.

“We rushed around, stressed, trying to get everything, put everything in rubbish bags, [and then] chuck it in the truck,” said mother and grandmother, Christina Wepa.

“Trying to get our stuff and our family into the truck was awful. The water was right up. We literally were waist deep.”

That night, they stayed at her daughter-in-laws – 18 in total, crammed into a three-bedroom house in Flaxmere.

Then on Tuesday, they were told they could stay at the evacuation centre at Kennedy Park, where they spent last night.

She heaped praise on the Civil Defence for their efforts providing support to them. But she said that can’t take away how surreal the situation is.

Whilegrateful for the night of accommodation, for many people and families, there remained a lot of anxiety about what was to come next.

“We’ve got no insurance, so we’re worried about our home being ripped off, people knowing that we’re not there,” she said.

“We’re just sitting here – we can’t just drive to our home because our car [would be] halfway under water.”

Families who chose to stay at their homes in the hardest-hit areas remain effectively trapped, unable to leave without wading through water, which at points remains waist deep.

Daygo Ngatai lives with her son in Marewa in Napier South. The water hasn’t reached inside her home, but it isn’t shifting in the street outside.

“We’re gonna buckle down and watch movies and munch. Try and block out the rain, because the rain’s pretty heavy. Have you noticed the rain drops? They’re huge!”

She was able to stock up on supplies after her sister picked her up and took her to the supermarket.

To get there, she had to get through water which wasn’t going anywhere.

“It’s gone down maybe 10 centimetres since this morning, but it hasn’t moved nowhere. And I still know because every time I go out it’s knee deep.”

The deluge on Monday night also led to the dramatic rescue of a woman who was caught in a river of mud.

Chris Brady lives on Main St in Hospital Hill where authorities are most worried about the prospect of further slips.

He and a friend rushed to help a woman buried up to her chest in a torrent of mud that had swept through the backyard of a nearby house.

Brady said he could not get through the torrent of water coming down the hillside but his friend, who made it round the back of the property, eventually pulled the woman to safety.

He said it could have turned out a lot worse.

“The lady was obviously in shock when they got her out. There was a couple of young kids in there, with their parents, and a couple of other tenants. It was a fairly full house and they were all just bloody lucky.”

The council is now trying to sort out long-term accommodation for those who won’t be able to return to their homes.

– additional reporting RNZ

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