A shocked Muriwai resident who lost her home in last night’s devastating storm says she has done nothing but cry all day.
“I am in shock. I have lost my house and I work from home so I have lost my job as well,” the woman told the Herald.
The woman’s house located on top of Domain Cres was destroyed after a major slip last night.
Another nearby property was also brought down in a slip, thought to have claimed the life of a volunteer firefighter.
“I was not staying at the house at the time. I was in Waiamuku, but my cat was there,” the woman said.
“This morning I went there and I lost everything. There is glass all over the grass. My cat is fine.
“There was a landslide under the house, the ground floor is gone,” the woman said.
The street was inaccessible to vehicles due to multiple slips, she said.
“We had to walk through the mud and around the landslides. It is terrible. I have been crying all day. I am also trying to figure out if my friends and family are okay. It is totally unsafe to get in the house.”
It wasn’t the first time that landslides had claimed lives in the coastal community.
In August 1965, tragedy struck when landslips came down from the steep escarpment at the southern end of Muriwai Beach village, destroying two baches, after two days of heavy rain.
Killed inside one of them were Isobel Crane and 18-year-old daughter Margaret Crane, while two other members of the family had to be rescued.
In recent years, former residents have been alarmed to find new houses have been built on hillside sections.
The latest death is likely to raise questions about why homes had been built in an area with a history of deadly slips.
A national state of emergency was declared on Tuesday morning as Cyclone Gabrielle’s full force is felt around the North Island.
Coastal communities west of Auckland, including Piha, and Muriwai, as well as Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay are among those hardest hit overnight.
Civil Defence Minister Kieran McAnulty said it was distressing to hear about the two firefighters trapped by a landslide in Muriwai. “These are highly trained volunteers. They left their own families to go help their communities,” he told AM.
Ball said Muriwai had been completely cut off due to slips and residents were evacuated overnight. “It’s been a very frightening and challenging night for people, especially in Muriwai.”
He said the cyclone had so far closely followed the predicted track and is warning that conditions are not expected to start easing until this afternoon.
A major emergency operation was launched in Muriwai, 42km northwest of Auckland, after the two firefighters were caught in the landslide.
“Last night, a crew from one of our volunteer fire brigades were investigating flooding in a house on Motutara Rd in Muriwai,” said FENZ chief executive Kerry Gregory. “While they were at the property, a landslide occurred on the slope above, and the house collapsed.
“Two of our firefighters were trapped. One was rescued early this morning and is in critical condition in the hospital. The search for our second firefighter was suspended in the early hours of the morning due to the instability of the land.”
The search for the missing man was called off tonight when conditions were deemed unsafe. The search will resume tomorrow morning.
Gregory said a full rescue operation was initiated as soon as the landslide occurred, involving 10 crews from seven brigades and including Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), police and St John.
“Our thoughts are with our firefighters, and with their loved ones. We are also providing support to the other members of their brigade. This is a very difficult time for them, and for every member of Fire and Emergency NZ when we are also focused on responding to the continuing need in so many communities across the North Island today.”
The Muriwai woman’s partner has started a Givealittle page which has raised over $2300 so far.