These amazing images show the scale of yesterday's flooding.

In the Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe, hundreds of homes are under water and thousands of residents have been evacuated after the Rangitaiki River burst its banks.

Defence Force personnel in unimogs and rescuers in jet boats led the mass evacuation in what the mayor described as a ''one-in-500-years'' event.

The photos also show the flooding of the Kaituna River and the Rangitaiki upstream at Galatea.

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Further south, residents were earlier evacuated in a Wellington suburb after a stream burst its banks. It was happier news in Whanganui this morning as evacuated residents were able to start returning home after high tide.

However, Edgecumbe today resembles a scene from Waterworld with the local river pouring into neighbourhoods, in some places almost 2m deep and rising.