6 Jan 2018

Flood-hit Kaiaua residents 'coping well'

9:59 pm on 6 January 2018

A massive clean-up of storm damage got under way on the Coromandel Peninsula today, and on the other side of the Firth of Thames.

Thames Marina on Friday morning.

Thames Marina yesterday morning. Photo: Supplied

Heavy rains and strong winds caused havoc across the country yesterday, with one woman killed in Rotorua after a large oak tree came down on her vehicle, while most of the Coromandel Peninsula was hit by flooding and numerous road closures.

Homes were flooded, trees downed and roads damaged by heavy rain and storm surges along both coasts of the Firth of Thames yesterday.

The Thames Coromandel District Council has been working with the Defence Force and the Red Cross to help those hardest hit.

Natalie Grace, who lives in Te Puru, just north of Thames, said neighbours had been checking on each other and helping clean up where they could.

She said the damage was extensive.

"If you go towards the boat ramp by Te Puru, a lot of the concrete has been completely damaged by the water, lots of rocks and everything have come up, lots of concrete chips, like huge chunks, there's been a lot of damage along the coast."

Authorities responding to the widespread flooding in Kaiaua on the western side of the Firth of Thames said the community was extremely resilient and was coping well with one of the most devastating floods they had seen.

The local civil defence controller, Steve Fabish, said he was able to give residents an update at a public meeting this afternoon. He said the East Coast Road through Kaiaua was now open although down to one lane at its northern end.

Thames Coast Road still closed

The Transport Agency said the storm-damaged Thames Coast Road was unlikely to be reopened today.

Transport Agency system manager Karen Royt said whole sections of State Highway 25 had been severely damaged or washed away altogether by sea surges.

She said seven crews were repairing the road with a view to getting at least one lane open.

In the meantime, it remains closed between Tararu and Manaia, except for residents between those two places.

All other state highways and council roads around the Coromandel Peninsula are currently open.

Rocks, trees and debris on the SH25 Thames Coast Road.

Rocks, trees and debris on the SH25 Thames Coast Road. Photo: Waikato Police

Power still out for thousands

Power companies have been kept busy today, as they work to restore connections cut off by the storm.

Powerco, which covers parts of Waikato, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty, is reporting about 2300 properties are still without power.

Vector in Auckland said it would be working through the night and into tomorrow to restore supply to the small pockets still without electricity.

Northpower spokesman Steve McMillan said storm-related power outages around Whangārei, Kaipara and Dargaville have all been fixed, though some rural areas may not have reported problems.

He said workers came back early from holiday to make sure Northlanders had their power restored.

And a new power outage occurred this evening - this time at Paengaroa east of Te Puke, where more than 1600 properties are without electricity. The cause is still being investigated.

Some of the of the worst hit spots were along the coast in the Firth of Thames, especially in the Coromandel and along State Highway 25 Thames Coast Road, particularly around Whakatete Bay.

The state highway was badly damaged and many houses flooded during the storm remain without power.

Red Cross emergency teams have been on the ground today.

Thames Coromandel District Council said the weather eased overnight and there were no further reports of flooding, slips or road closures.

It said all roads were open today but the Thames Coast Road (SH25) was only open to residents and emergency vehicles.

Any traffic leaving the peninsula is asked to do so through Whitianga and Tairua.

The Pauanui water treatment remains closed due to sediment in the water and residents are asked to conserve water. There were no issues with wastewater contamination, the council said.

Whangamata residents are being reassured their water is fine to drink, despite its turning yellow after yesterday's storm.

The Thames Coromandel District Council said one of the town's water sources was higher in iron oxide but that wouldn't cause any health issues.

In the South Island, State Highway 1 has reopened after slips due to the weather closed the road north and south of Kaikōura, although a truck crash again closed SH1 north of Kaikōura for several hours on Saturday afternoon.

Flooding in Kaiaua.

Flooding in Kaiaua. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Weather forecast

The worst of the wild weather had passed by today, the MetService said.

MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said the heavy rain had eased overnight, and the north easterly winds which had hit the Coromandel Peninsula particularly hard had switched to the south west.

"Things are able to start drying out, things have eased.

"The good news for the whole country, including the Coromandel, is the worst is now over."

Mr Adams said weather stations on the hills of the Coromandel Peninsula received more than 150mm of rain between midday Thursday and 7am this morning.

Residents in Te Puru, just north of Thames, say some homes in the area have around half a metre of sand a debris built up around them.

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