An elderly woman has died after being swept away by flooding on the West Coast.

Police confirmed that a body was recovered near flood waters in the Arahura Valley, north of Hokitika, this morning.

"An initial scene investigation appears that the woman got out of the vehicle she was driving and tried to cross the flood waters on foot. She has then been swept away in the strong-flowing current of surface flooding on Arahura Valley Road," a police spokeswoman said.

"The investigation is ongoing, and her death will be referred to the coroner. Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time," the spokeswoman said.

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Aerial photos have revealed the scale of the damage at Franz Josef. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC
Aerial photos have revealed the scale of the damage at Franz Josef. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC

An extreme weather front has caused major flooding and demolished a bridge on the West Coast, closed major roads and schools and forced evacuations.

A state of emergency is also in place in Westland and is expected to be lifted "today or tomorrow".

A large section of road has been completely washed away. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC
A large section of road has been completely washed away. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC

Most weather stations along the coast had recorded just under 200mm since the rain event started on late Sunday/Monday, with stations inland getting well above 200mm, and one station even recording around 1000mm, MetService said.

The flood waters have swamped planes in the area. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC
The flood waters have swamped planes in the area. Photo / Wayne Costello, DOC

Yesterday evening the Waiho Bridge just south of the town was taken out by the rising and rough floodwaters.

Tourists were kept in the small West Coast town yesterday with treacherous road conditions also north to Hokitika.

Farther north, Arthur's Pass remained blocked today by two slips, with updates due at midday, leaving the only way out of the West Coast region several hours' drive north and through the Lewis Pass.

With many travellers planning to head south from Franz Josef to the Wanaka/Queenstown area, today they would have to make new plans.

Flooding hasn't only been restricted to rivers. Surface flooding has also resulted in road and school closures throughout the region.

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