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A woman 10 days overdue and in advanced labour was evacuated by helicopter from a stranded coastal settlement today following flooding in Hawke's Bay.
The pregnant woman, from the badly hit coastal town of Waimarama, 31km southeast of Hastings, was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital where she was still in labour with her first child, Hastings District Council spokesman Paul Evans told NZPA.
Another resident, a 71-year-old man, was taken to the same hospital so he could receive urgent dialysis treatment, Mr Evans said.
Waimarama has been cut off after a bridge to the area was damaged by the flooding and engineers are considering the possibility of building a temporary bridge.
Civil Defence is preparing for worsening floodwaters with more rain on its way.
MetService is predicting an additional 100 to 150 millimetres of rain on coastal hills over the next six hours.
The 200 millimetres already fallen in the region has caused widespread flooding and slips in 14 coastal communities from Nuhaka to Porangahau and 105 people have already been evacuated from their homes.
The amount of rainfall is being described as a one-in-a-100-year event, but the region's main rivers are all contained and are expected to remain so.
Civil Defence says two groups of people trapped in eastern Bay of Plenty are safe.
Parts of State Highway 35, which wraps around East Cape, are cut off after heavy rain caused major slips. There are 44 people holed up in a school, and another 20 in a marae further east.
Social worker Oho Gage said the people they have taken in at the marae are holiday makers who can't return home because of the road closures.
She said they had been there for two days already.
The extreme weather has caused flooding and slips in three Hawke's Bay coastal settlements: Waimarama, Clifton and Te Awanga.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokesman Drew Broadly told NZPA about 60 people were evacuated from homes and a motorcamp in Te Awanga, 21km southeast of Napier, and were being looked after at the Civil Defence centre in Haumoana, 5km away.
Inspector Dean Clifford told NZPA the army had been called in and were evacuating people from the coastal township of Te Awanga.
He said there were more than 20 people in households with surface flooding and more than 20 people at a motorcamp who were affected.
Mr Clifford said those 40 people were being looked after at the Civil Defence centre in Haumoana, 13km from Hastings.
The fire service had also evacuated about 25 residents from Waimarama, 32km southeast of Hastings, and had taken them to the local fire station and neighbouring properties.
Four people were evacuated from Nuhaka, 66km south of Gisborne.
Waimarama residents have been ordered to boil their drinking water after the town's reservoir has fallen to 20 per cent capacity due to problems caused by the rain overnight.
They are being asked to avoid taking showers or baths, doing the laundry or flushing the toilet in an effort to conserve water.
Te Awanga resident Kim Brown told NZPA there was knee-high water in low-lying areas.
Her house was untouched as she lives on a slight hill, but there was heavy flooding near the beach, she said.
"We do have the .... reserve which is completely flooded, which is the overflow from the river. I've never seen that happen before. We have a river flowing back through it."
Wild winds yesterday tore roofs off houses, and ripped down trees and power lines, while surface flooding and slips closed roads.
Emergency services are also evacuating properties in Clive, near Hastings. Police area shift commander Mark Oliver told Newstalk ZB up to 500 houses may need to be evacuated on the East Coast.
In Taupo, residents are being urged to be careful as they wake to the aftermath of yesterday's storm.
Hundreds of people across the North Island remain without electricity as power companies have called in all crews to remove fallen trees, and to replace power lines brought down in the storm.
Some areas were likely to be without power again tonight because it was too dangerous for repair crews to work in the high winds.
Lines company Unison spokesman Danny Gough said crews were working on restoring power to its customers across Taupo and Hawke's Bay.
In Kairakau Beach, Clareinch Road and Blackhead Beach, 200 residents will be without power tonight.
Another 200 people in outlying areas of Taupo will be without power tonight.
Powerco, which covered the western Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, said until the weather improved it was difficult to provide accurate restoration times for about 2600 customers without power.
The storm cut power to about 11,500 Powerco customers yesterday. Extremely high winds were making restoration difficult, network operations manager Phil Marsh said.
"We expect to restore the majority of supply to customers today, however it is likely a few customers will be without power tonight as the gale force winds are forecast to continue in some areas."
Many power cuts could have been avoided if tree owners had trimmed them well clear of power lines, he said.
Northern fire communications shift manager Scott Osmond said there were more than 100 weather-related calls received yesterday, most from Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
"Earlier in the morning, we got reports of flooding and lines down in Whakatane and Ohope. Then early afternoon we got calls about very strong winds and roofs and trees down in Te Awamutu. We've had a few calls about roofs coming off in Taupo too."
Te Awamutu felt the full brunt, with a wind burst - likened to a "mini tornado" by residents - ripping up 20 trees in one street.
Pauline Lofthouse was checking how her vehicle repair shop, Pitt Stop Garage, was coping in the wind when the roof was pulled from over her head.
"It was very frightening, my heart's still going ... one second it was there and the next it was gone."
Te Awamutu senior station fire officer Lex Soepnel said staff had been "flat tack" all day and had been called to about five electrical fires caused by fallen power lines.
Wind bursts also ripped through houses in Waikawa Bay, near Picton, yesterday morning, tearing roofs off homes.
Resident Vaughan Hokianga said it tore through a neighbouring house, peeling its roof off.
"We heard this big bang and the roof peeled of the house. Then it sped around and went up in a circle and went about 500m up in the air.
"Then it exploded and disintegrated and got blown onto the hill."
In Whakatane, heavy rain left residents nervous and fearful of yet another flood. The district has been hit by several storms in the past year, costing million of dollars.
Slips yesterday closed roads in Whakatane and Tauranga and flooding affected roads in Whitianga.
Weather to linger
Weather Watch chief analyst Philip Duncan said the wet weather would linger until Tuesday as an aggressive low moved across the country.
"I can't see it getting much better very quickly. The winds might not be as damaging in the next few days, but they are likely to reach gale force in the central North Island."
Mr Duncan said a low above the south Island is being squeezed between two highs - one in the north and one further south - which will see the strong winds ease but ensure rains persist at least until tomorrow afternoon. Rain will also return to Gisborne as the high strengthens in the coming days.
Auckland is likely to be hit with strong winds tomorrow but these are not expected to be as damaging as the gales yesterday, he said.
Mr Duncan said the weather maps look similar for the next two weeks, with the North Island set for "cloudy, showery, mild" weather for the next fortnight. In the South Island weather is likely to settle and temperatures increase from next week.
The MetService was slightly more optimistic last night, saying strong south-easterlies and rain should ease on Friday and Saturday, but scattered showers would continue.
MetService said the heavy rain and wind which pounded the North Island and caused these power outages for most of yesterday would start to ease off this morning.
Strong southeast winds which have battered the Central North Island across to Taranaki and down to Kapiti Coast, Wellington, the Marlborough Sounds and Golden Bay will continue, at times gusting up to 130km/h, until later this morning, forecaster Ian Miller said.
In Gisborne the heaviest falls were over but outbreaks of rain were expected through to Thursday.
Rain was expected to continue falling near the ranges and coastal hills in Hawke's Bay and Tararua district through to this evening.
Southeast gales gusting to 120km/h were forecast for parts of Nelson, Buller and Westland this morning.