Boat used to rescue pair from trees

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Children are evacuated from flooding threatening the Kaeo Firestation. Photo / NZPA
Children are evacuated from flooding threatening the Kaeo Firestation. Photo / NZPA

Firefighters have used a boat to rescue two people stuck up trees in Northland as tropical cyclone Wilma batters the upper North Island overnight.

The man and woman were stuck up trees in Pipiwai for more than three hours, due to the rising flood waters. Some people had attempted to swim out to the pair, but the current was too strong, northern fire communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said.

A police northern communications spokesman told NZPA the pair were rescued this morning.

Also safe were two people who had been believed missing after a house collapsed when it was hit by a large slip at Onetangi, on Waiheke Island, this morning.

The northern region fire communications centre dealt with more than 400 emergency 111 calls between 6pm yesterday and 5am today.

In Kaeo, 111 communications centre staff were in constant contact with a family trapped in their house.

"Two adults and two children became trapped in flood waters. Water rose to above eight feet (nearly 3m) to the level of the house's veranda. The back of the house started to slide away as waters eroded a bank," Mr Phillips told NZPA.

The Fire Service communicator got the occupant to use a lit candle to signal rescuers.

"Firefighters in a rescue boat went along Dip Road in search of the light and eventually rescued the family," Mr Phillips added.

Firefighters also attended an incident where a car went into a river in Wilson Road, Parakao, 40km west of Whangarei.

Other incidents included a rescue in Whakapara, 23km northwest of Whangarei, after a car became stuck in flood water. Three adults and a child roped themselves together and were rescued by firefighters.

On State Highway 1 at Okaihau, 63km southeast of Kaitaia, two people become trapped and were forced to cling to logs as floodwaters rose. Firefighters used a dinghy to rescue the pair as water levels rose quickly.

Occupants of eight units at the Beachhaven Motel and Holiday Park in Waihi Beach, have been evacuated, while two houses in Riverside, Whangarei, were evacuated after a landslide threatened houses.

In Stanmore Bay, 40km northeast of Auckland, a landslide crashed into a house.

A number of residents from Kaeo, about 30 minutes northwest of Kerikeri, have been evacuated to the local rugby club as the Kaeo River threatens their homes.

Police were being inundated with calls about slips, road closures, trees over roads and surface flooding from Maunganui to Warkworth, police northern communications shift commander Shawn Rutene said.

The severe weather was moving towards Tauranga, Whakatane and Awakeri, and the bridge between Tauranga and Mt Maunganui was closed.

There is no access to Whakatane from Tauranga, and the only road open between Rotorua and Whakatane is the Rotoma Hills but it has numerous slips that have reduced the road to one lane in several areas.

SH1 around the Dome Valley was closed and Mr Rutene said this effectively blocked road access between Auckland and Northland.

Other road closures included SH11 at Opua and SH1 and 11 between Moerewa and Kerikeri.

The Waitotara Bridge had been washed away, meaning there is no access to Whangarei Heads in Northland.

Police expect the Kauaeranga River, on the Coromandel Peninsula, to burst its banks and emergency services are on alert.

People in Rotorua are also being urged to stay at home and only travel if necessary, as flood waters are blocking a number of roads around the city centre.

SH5 north to Hamilton is closed by a slip about 100m north of Tarukenga Road near the Lakeview golf course. The Utuhina Stream is in flood and getting close to the point of bursting its banks.

In Tauranga, overnight rain has flooded the bus depot, preventing buses from leaving the depot, as well as flooding some buses.

People in the Bay of Plenty were being warned to keep an eye on rapidly rising river levels after heavy rain fell in the Te Puke and Rotorua hills areas early this morning, Bay of Plenty Regional Council community relations manager Bronwyn Campbell said.

"Rain will cause rivers and stream to rise quickly, with slips and localised flooding possible, and farmers should move stock to high ground. New Zealand Transport Agency is reporting slips on SH30 at Tikitere near Hells Gate and on SH2 at Waiotahi Beach," she said.

The MetService said Wilma should pass just to the north of East Cape late this morning before racing away to the southeast.

- NZPA

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