Civil Defence searching for 80 abandoned rental cars on the West Coast

6:24 pm on 11 December 2019

Civil Defence staff on the West Coast are searching for 80 rental cars that tourists abandoned this week.

Bridge washout just after Mt Hercules heading south

A washed out bridge near Mount Hercules on the West Coast during the weekend. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

About 1000 tourists were left stranded in Franz Josef after landslips blocked all routes in and out of the town over the weekend.

Those who could afford to do so helicoptered out of the township, leaving their rental cars behind.

West Coast Civil Defence manager Kim Hibbs said the cars were spread out across half a dozen locations.

Staff were assembling all the vehicles into one location so the rental car companies could eventually retrieve them, she said.

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Trees and debris blocking a road on the West Coast. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The emergency centre that was set up in Franz Josef had also been scaled down.

A recovery team will help local businesses affected by the slips.

Meanwhile, the mayor of the Grey District has said there was a misconception among tourists that the whole of the West Coast had been hit by the weekend's flooding, leading to people cancelling bookings.

The Grey District Mayor, Tania Gibson, said Westland bore the brunt of the bad weather, but tourist businesses in the Grey District were also having cancellations.

Gibson said the main routes into the Grey District via Arthur's Pass, Lewis Pass and Buller Gorge were all still open.

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