A civil defence emergency has been called in the Wanganui District this afternoon after rising floodwaters saw more than 50 people evacuated from their homes.
Wanganui Mayor Annette Main declared the civil defence emergency just after 4pm, and army personnel were now assisting with evacuating more residents from their homes.
Horizons Regional Council flood crews were on standby as the Whanganui River rises.
Horizons' incident commander Craig Grant said Wanganui was under threat from the rapidly rising river, which was expected to peak at 14.7m at Pipiriki this afternoon.
"This is likely to have an impact for Wanganui around midnight tonight," Mr Grant said.
"Steps have been put in place to reduce the flood risk but it is expected that flooding will still occur in some parts of Wanganui."
Wanganui District Council was also closely monitoring the levels of the rapidly rising Matarawa Stream, in Wanganui East.
As dozens of Wanganui people were evacuated from their homes due to floods, slips, and sewage spills, the Civil Defence and Red Cross opened up an evacuation centre at St Paul's Church on Guyton St, and manager Anthony Edwards said by 2pm around 50 people had visited the centre.
"Most of those people have been able to find somewhere to stay with friends or family, but if they haven't got anywhere else to go we will put them up in a motel. So far we've had to find accommodation for four families."
Mr Edwards said the centre, which was manned by Red Cross volunteers, was likely to accept more evacuees as the flooding worsened.
Wanganui was virtually cut off by the flooding this afternoon as all roads in and out of the city were closed. Only SH3 north of the city was still open, but only as far as Patea.
People were urged to stay inside and cancel any non-urgent travel.
Between midnight and 4pm today more than 60mm of rain had fallen in Wanganui. The rain was expected to ease around 10pm.
In Matarawa St, in Wanganui East, Fleur Mcnabb and her family were ready to evacuate if necessary.
"Our street is completely flooded. We've been told to evacuate if our toilets start bubbling up."
Liz Clark had to leave her house in Queen St this morning because of flooding and slipping.
"The place I'm at in Raine St is now flooding as well," she said.
Val Southcombe was evacuated from her Mt View Rd home and was staying with friends. She said she hoped her house "doesn't get buried".
Seipuanume Leapai lives in Koriniti on the Whanganui River Road. She said Koriniti was cut off by slips but the community was "sitting tight" until the road could be re-opened.
"Apart from that, we have hot soup on the stove, power and Wi-Fi so we are all good," Ms Leapai said.
In Turakina, Tiffany Wagstaff was also counting her blessings.
"We have a slip with nine full grown trees and thousands of kilos of dirt on our driveway. For once we haven't lost power though."
Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye said she had spoken with Mayor Annette Main and offered her support if needed.
"The mayor declared a state of local emergency to enable about 100 people living near the Whanganui River to be evacuated.
"I have been told the river is expected to flood nearby houses, and it was important for people's safety that they evacuate as soon as possible."
Ms Kaye said she had been advised that civil defence emergency management responders, including emergency services and the army, were supporting the evacuation.
"It is most important that people evacuate if asked, and follow direction and advice from agencies.
"Civil defence emergency management and emergency services in the district are responding well and have good local knowledge.
"The District Council is leading the response and knows support is available should it be needed.
If you need help:
*If your property is at risk from floodwaters, slips or sewage leaks, please contact Civil Defence on  3490001.
*If the danger is immediate please call the emergency services on 111.
*Evacuation centre is available at St Paul's Church, Guyton St [opposite the Wanganui District Council buildings].
*For roading updates visit www.nzta.govt.nz.
*For electricity updates visit www.powerco.co.nz.
- Wangaui Chronicle