It could take up to 10 days for the water to fully recede in Edgecumbe.

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said water levels were continuing to drop and authorities were focused on getting every pump they can get to direct the water into canals.

"There are a number of pumps that are being brought in from all over the country.

"That water will be pumped into nearby canals.

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"This area will take seven to 10 days to dry out. There's a huge amount of water."

With no sewerage or power, people would not be returning today, Bonne said.

"I don't want to give a timeline on when people can come back in," he said.

He said it was too early to tell the extent of the damage.

"We know some houses will be condemned but each will have to be individually inspected."

The Rangitaiki River breached its banks and poured through the Bay of Plenty town on Thursday during the havoc wreaked by ex-tropical cyclone Debbie, forcing the evacuation of 1600 residents.

Due to the risk of contamination from floodwaters a boil water notice remains in effect for Taneatua residents, alongside Te Teko/Mapou, Edgecumbe, Awakeri, Braemar and the entire Ruatoki and the Rangitaiki Plains areas.

The Rangitaiki River peaked on Thursday with a flow that exceeded 900 cubic metres per second which was estimated to a 200-500 year event.

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The Rangitaiki and Whakatane/Tauranga rivers reached their highest peak flows on record.

Two community meetings will be held today for evacuated residents. The first will be held at 4pm at Rautahi marae in Kawerau. The second will be held at 6pm at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall.

There was a drop-in centre at a Awakeri school for residents to speak to council staff.

Bonne said in extreme individual cases people could be escorted to their homes to collect important personal items. So far this had been done for residents who needed medication and for someone who needed their passport to fly out of the country the next day.

A breach in a stopbank of the Rangitaiki River was closed at 11pm last night.

With the breach closed, some streets were now dry, officials said, and access around the town was improving.

Council flood manager Roger Waugh said they were now monitoring potential flooding further down the river, and there may yet be further evacuations.

The military and police had set up cordons to ensure safety.

The mayor said there had been no looting as far as he knew, and the SPCA was working with the council to ensure its animals were safe.

He urged evacuees to register with the council, and to head to welfare centres at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall and the Ruatahi marae.

For anyone wanting to help out, a Mayoral Fund had been set up at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/ebopmayoralfund. The council was not taking food donations.

 The Rangitaiki River burst through a stopbank forcing the evacuation of 1600 residents on Thursday. Photo/George Novak
The Rangitaiki River burst through a stopbank forcing the evacuation of 1600 residents on Thursday. Photo/George Novak

The scale of devastation is enormous. Aerial pictures show wide stretches of farmland on the Rangitaiki Plains underwater with farmhouses as isolated islands.

Edgecumbe resident John Kearns was putting the finishing touches on his 18-month home renovation when the Rangitaiki River broke its banks and flooded his street.

"I've worked my guts out on that," the truck driver said ruefully yesterday, sitting beside his wife, Marilyn, in a Whakatane motel where they spent the night.

"But we're insured and we're alive ... it doesn't bear thinking about what might have happened if it was night time."

​Road closures

This morning, roads in the region remained closed, including State Highway 2 near Edgecumbe, and the Waimana Gorge.

The gorge is expected to be closed for some time as a result of slips, trees, flooding and road washout.

The Pekatahi Bridge also remains closed.

Many roads in the Waikato district will remain closed over the weekend.

Roads in Onewhero, Pokeno, Huntly, Te Kowhai and Pukekawa remain closed. They are:
Riverview Rd, Huntly
Klondyke Rd, Onewhero
Pioneer Rd, Pokeno
Venna Fry Lane, Huntly: top end
Blackett Rd, Te Kowhai
Koheroa Rd, Mercer
Churchill Rd, Pukekawa
Clark and Denize Rd, Pukekawa

Others in Tuakau, Onewhero and Ngaruawahia have reopened.

The Waikato District Council said in a release it will assess road closures on Monday when water levels had receded.

A section of the Thames Coast Road remains closed after a 1000-cubic-metre slip came down during heavy rain on Thursday night. The road is closed at Ruamahanga.

SH1 south of Kaikoura is closed again as the wild weather destabilised slips.