A gravely ill child is at the centre of a mercy dash requiring soldiers taking the youngster by unimog from Oamaru to Dunedin Hospital tonight.

Waitaki District Council mayor Gary Kircher announced a state of emergency just after 8pm saying the district had reached the stage where it urgently needed outside help.

A child also urgently needed to be taken from the Oamaru Hospital to the intensive care unit at Dunedin Hospital but flooding had blocked all roads south of the town and there was no way to get through.

"It allows us to get army unimogs to get through and transfer the child," said Kircher.

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The child could not be flown out of the district as conditions were too atrocious.

He said so far one Oamaru household had been evacuated but a number of people threatened by rising floodwater had already left their homes and sought shelter elsewhere in the district.

Waitaki becomes the third southern district this evening to declare a state of emergency.

Dunedin declared an emergency around 7.45pm as rain continued unabated.

Mayor Dave Cull said the state of emergency had been declared because the emergency situation is beyond the resources of the emergency services alone, or otherwise required significant co-ordination.

It meant extra powers were available to assist in the emergency response.

Dunedin Civil Defence Controller Sandy Graham said Civil Defence was making plans to evacuate people from some areas in Mosgiel.

"Residents in low-lying areas who feel concerned should make plans to evacuate or self-evacuate themselves to stay with friends or family who live on higher ground should it be required.

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``Check on neighbours, particularly if they are vulnerable,'' Ms Graham said.

Due to heavy rain infiltrating into the wastewater system, manhole covers have been forced up in Surrey St, South Dunedin, and on North Rd in North East Valley.

The system backs up at certain bottleneck points and overflows onto the road. The overflows are contained on roads, but people should stay out of floodwaters in these areas and treat them as contaminated.

The Dunedin City Council has opened all available bypasses to alleviate pressure on the system.

Council staff, contractors, emergency services and Civil Defence personnel were responding as quickly as they caould to weather-related issues based on priority.

A number of road closures are now in place, including SH1 at Waikouaiti and SH87 Outram to Kyeburn.

A full list of road closures and conditions is available online.

State highway closures are on the NZ Transport Agency website.

Graham said motorists should not go rubbernecking, or put themselves or others at risk.

Anyone wanting to report flood-related issues with council services should call us on 03 477 4000 to report it.

Anyone who felt their safety is in danger or who has water entering their house or business should call emergency services on 111.

Information Centres

Dunedin City Council has opened information centres in South Dunedin and Mosgiel as places where people can go for more information and which can also potentially be used as welfare centres if the need develops.

The centres are currently staffed and are located at:

• Mosgiel, Fire Station Theatre, 3 Cargill Street
• South Dunedin, The Mercy Room, Catholic Social Services, 42 Macandrew Road

Sandbags

Sandbags and sand are available from the Memorial Park car park beside the stadium/Mosgiel Memorial Gymnasium, and in South Dunedin at the carpark behind St Clair Tennis Club, Victoria Road.

Where possible, people should bring a shovel to fill the bags, although contractors are available on-site at both locations to assist with filling and loading.

Around 7000 sandbags have been collected so far.

- With Otago Daily Times