Cyclone Gabrielle: 'Those that have power, just be careful with your usage' - Napier mayor

11:52 am on 18 February 2023
A damaged road in Eskdale, north of Napier.

A damaged road in Eskdale, north of Napier. Photo: RNZ/Tess Brunton

There was cheering and clapping in the streets of Napier as power came on in parts of the city yesterday, the mayor says.

Some homes were also being assessed across the region with some residents beginning to return if they were safe.

About 30 percent of the city has power back on - mainly in the CBD and surrounding suburbs.

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But Mayor Kirsten Wise asked people to be conservative with their power use.

"My heart goes out to the rest of our communities that still do not have any power. Those that have power, just be careful with your usage - don't go chucking on your dishwashers and your clothes dryers - it is a temporary fix they have put in place and we don't want to overload it.

"For the rest of our city we do still in fact need to conserve our water usage ... minimise flushing of toilets, minimise showers... Please, please, please no-one jump out with your hose and start trying to clean up silt."

For those in need of LPG gas, there was plenty of supply and deliveries were underway, Wise said.

For those trying to find loved ones, Wise said "don't panic" and advised them to contact police.

"A lot of it is simply coming down to the fact that people are not contactable ... we do know there are lots of people who still don't have power, their phones aren't charged, so they just can't be gotten hold of."

She expected an update from police on the number of those uncontactable today.

As of yesterday afternoon there were about 900 people housed in Napier evacuation centres, Wise said.

Some people had been able to return home yesterday.

"As we move into the recovery phase, that is when we really start looking at those people who need longer-term condition."

A council-owned holiday camp would be available for people to stay in.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence said there had been a step change in its Cyclone Gabrielle Response in the last 24 hours.

Its Operational Readiness team leader Edaan Lennan said in some areas, the response had moved from immediate survival mode to better understanding the impact and getting people back in their homes.

Limited communications in Wairoa

Wairoa still remains largely cut off with limited communication, and the focus is continuing to get essential supplies to communities there, where Civil Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force is on the ground.

Helicopters will be sent out again today on reconnaissance missions there and in other rural areas to survey roads, transmission lines, stop banks, water levels in townships and slips on farmland.

Napier MP Stuart Nash is coordinating a drop of 25,000 newsletters which will be distributed around Napier and surrounding areas.

'Hopeful that most of our people are ok' - Hastings mayor

In Hastings, there was better access to power and roading links heading south were largely intact.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst told Morning Report people from around the region had been driving in to make use of the power supply.

"There was a 5km line of traffic held up yesterday, the expressway between Napier and Hastings, so yes people were coming over for a hot shower and to recharge their phones and batteries etc," she said.

While she said it was wonderful to have the expressway opened, she asked people to stay at home and only travel if they needed to, to avoid putting more pressure on the roads.

She said the main concern currently was reaching out to rural communities and making sure everybody was accounted for.

"We're getting that intel today, I'll be up in a chopper with the chair of the regional council, just to see how everybody is faring.

"We've got our rural community board working really hard, we know that we've got cut off and isolated communities who haven't got the necessities of life and so we're getting fuel up to them, also connections through Starlink were dropped off yesterday to various parts of our rural community by chopper."

In rural areas like Rissington, home to 1500 to 2000 people, communities had been forming groups and committees to identify the needs of their residents, Hazlehurst said.

"Everybody's compiling lists now, we've got a whole team now looking after them, meeting regularly with them.

"I can contact them all through their satellites, so we had a very good Zoom meeting yesterday and we'll be doing that all across the whole of the Hastings district."

Hazlehurst said they had last night made contact with two communities they hadn't yet heard from.

"I got some word that our people at Lake Tutira were ok, but they were the ones that we couldn't get hold of, so we need to get a satellite link in to them so they can communicate. They're all working together, supporting each other but we need to get supplies to them.

"The other one is Keruru and so that is another area that we hadn't heard from and that was our concern. So now once again we'll get all their needs in."

While there were still thousands of people unaccounted for, Hazlehurst said she was "very hopeful that most of our people are ok".

"The 3000 responses to police looking for whānau and family and loved ones, it's pretty devastating," she said. "I think there is about 200 people already who have notified to say that they've found their person."

Hazlehurst said there were still 37,000 people without power across the region, making contact challenging.

"Can I just say how tirelessly the power teams have been working, and everyone, Civil Defence, FENZ, Police, just to connect everybody up but there's a lot of people on that list to get through," she said. "We've got more police arriving today, more police to support everybody, and that's fantastic.

National Emergency Management Agency advice:

  • Put safety first. Don't take any chances. Act quickly if you see rising water. Floods and flash floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
  • Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles.
  • If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
  • If you don't need to evacuate, support those who do by staying home, staying off roads and staying safe.
  • If you are not able to contact your whānau in the heavily affected areas go to Police 105 website and complete the inquiry form or phone 105 and remember to update if you reconnect through other means.
  • Throw away food and drinking water that has come into contact with floodwater as it is often contaminated and can make you sick.
  • If you are without power eat the food from your fridge first, then your freezer. Then eat the food in the cupboard or your emergency kit.
  • People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of civil defence and emergency services.
  • A National State of Emergency is in place for an initial period of seven days and applies to regions that have declared a local State of Emergency.

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