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Fiordland trampers airlifted out after torrential rain

Helicopters airlifted tourists to safety after torrential rain in Fiordland National Park yesterday.

About 200m of of the Wilmot Pass road, which had undergone major repair work after earthquakes in 2004, was washed out, cutting access to Deep Cove.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Te Anau spokeswoman Beth Masser said three helicopters were used last night to ferry 168 tourists who had been trapped at Deep Cove.

One helicopter was diverted to the Dusky Track to airlift another group cut off on both sides by flooding.

"That was quite a big job moving that number of people, but everything went smoothly," she said.

Maintenance contractors flew over the Wilmot Pass washout this morning to assess damage and repairs had begun. Heavy earthmoving machinery was barged across Lake Manapouri.

Wilmot Pass connects Lake Manapouri with Doubtful Sound via 21km of gravelled road. The road passes through the alpine zone as it crosses the 640m high Wilmot Pass.

Ms Masser said it was hoped people could be walking through the affected area as early as tomorrow.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but we can get a short-term fix so people's holiday plans shouldn't be too much affected."

She added: "Hut wardens on the Milford Track report that everything's looking fine there today," she said.

"Surface flooding on the track has gone and people are back in their tramping boots and off again."

- NZPA

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