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Good samaritan saves British man swamped by surf

By Amelia Wade

Wild surf whipped the shoreline and spectators were caught out as waves and debris crashed around them on the walkway between the main beach and Leisure Island at Mt Maunganui. Photo / Alan Gibson
Wild surf whipped the shoreline and spectators were caught out as waves and debris crashed around them on the walkway between the main beach and Leisure Island at Mt Maunganui. Photo / Alan Gibson

Large swells which knocked containers off the stricken Rena and caused more oil to seep from the wreck almost swept a tourist out to sea but for a quick-thinking local.

Yesterday afternoon, Cam Neate was taking some photos and checking out the large surf with his brother at Leisure Island, which is connected to Mt Maunganui beach by a small strip of sand.

On their way back, Mr Neate came across a British man in his 30s struggling to get back to the beach. He told him to wait until the end of a set of waves then make a run for it.

Minutes later the 23-year-old heard people screaming.

"He had been completely swept over by a big wave. He got washed really awkwardly into the rocks and the wave was starting to drag him out," Mr Neate said.

He threw his camera aside and ran into the waves to help the man and pull him back to safety.

"He was completely lost by the time I got to him - he was out of breath and hardly talking. He was a bit frightened, I think, after getting washed through the rocks.

"I just grabbed his hand and made sure he was okay, but he'd lost his hat and his shoe, that got washed away."

Mr Neate, who surfs regularly at the beach, said the man was very lucky that he hadn't been swept out to sea.

The swell, up to 7m offshore, also washed containers and debris off the Rena, causing the Tauranga harbourmaster to issue safety warnings for boaties.

Overnight on Monday, about 10 containers were swept off the sunken ship after the swell forced a cover hatch off the No3 hold in the bow of the vessel.

And last night it was confirmed a small amount of oil had spilled from the wreck.

Officials said the oil could reach the Coromandel overnight.

"It is unlikely to have a significant impact. However, it is important people are aware there could be some oil on their beaches over the next few days," a Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman said.

The high seas were expected to persist throughout last night before easing today.

A tropical storm is to blame for the rough conditions as it bears down on the North Island causing the MetService to issue a severe weather warning for Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.

About 160mm of rain in Gisborne and 130mm over the ranges of Hawkes Bay is expected between yesterday morning and the small hours of tomorrow morning.

The MetService said people in those areas should watch out for flooded streams and rivers, slips and hazardous driving conditions.

Weather Watch head analyst Philip Duncan said the low was very large and stretched from the North Island to Fiji.

He said it would slowly ease into Easter weekend.

3-DAY FORECAST

Auckland

Today: Cloudy with some rain. Strong southeast wind.
Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy, northeast showers. Strong southeasterlies.
Friday: Fine breaks, few northeast showers.

Hamilton

Today: Cloudy periods with some rain. Gusty southeast.
Tomorrow: Cloudy, chance of rain. Gusty southeasterlies.
Friday: Mostly cloudy, chance of rain. Southeasterlies easing.

- NZ Herald

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