A tree came within inches of wiping out a teenager while a family clambered to the roof of a tramping hut to avoid being washed away in floodwaters.

The dramatic tales of survival are emerging as wild weather strikes the lower South Island.

An NZME radio host is among dozens of stranded trampers rescued in Fiordland.

Jamie Mackay - host of The Country on Hokonui, Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport - had been taking a guided walk along the Hollyford Track when the extreme weather hit.

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He told Newstalk ZB's Kerre McIvor their group of 14 trampers and five staff had got off lightly - they were staying at Martins Bay, where water rose to ankle deep.

State of Emergency declared for Fiordland as roads destroyed and tourists trapped. Video / NZTA

"Talking to some of the other evacuated trampers this morning, there literally have been some near-death experiences. At the Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track a landslide ripped through about one o'clock this morning and wiped out the end of the building.

"I was talking to a young guy whose head was missed by a tree by about 18 inches. That's how lucky they were."

A Wellington family in the McKerrow Island Hut also had a close shave.

"The water kept rising and rising and rising and they were stranded on this island effectively. They thought their days were done and they had to smash some windows and get out on the roof."

The family had been winched to safety this morning.

Evacuations in other parts of Fiordland are still under way with several tramping groups safely on the ground in Te Anau at a Civil Defence centre.

But hundreds more people remain trapped in Milford Sound after extreme weather hit Fiordland yesterday. They will remain trapped until at least tomorrow because of the ongoing weather chaos.

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A state of emergency was declared in the area as heavy rain and slips trapped tourists on tracks and roads and closed State Highway 94, the only route to the sound.

Helicopters have been in the air since 7.40am after a brief delay due to heavy rain and low cloud, with intentions of rescuing around 100 trampers.

State Highway 94 - the only route to Milford Sound - is closed due to landslides causes by extreme weather, leaving hundreds of tourists trapped. Photo / NZ Transport Agency
State Highway 94 - the only route to Milford Sound - is closed due to landslides causes by extreme weather, leaving hundreds of tourists trapped. Photo / NZ Transport Agency

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Fiordland flooding: Landslide hits hut on Routeburn Track, hundreds trapped in Milford Sound
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Weather chaos: Landslide hits hut, hundreds trapped by floods

Search and Rescue staff had told Mackay the Homer Tunnel had received 55mm of rain in one hour, which was thought to be a record.

Mackay's tramping group had been split in half - his wife was among those still waiting to be rescued.

He was rescued by helicopter - flown by Sir Richard Hayes - and taken to the Fiordland Events Centre, where they and other evacuees were given a hot cup of tea.

A Wellington family had to smash the windows and climb onto the roof of McKerrow Hut to escape the rising water. Image / Department of Conservation
A Wellington family had to smash the windows and climb onto the roof of McKerrow Hut to escape the rising water. Image / Department of Conservation

He had been lucky to be part of a well-prepared guided tour but "some of the people are really frightened and really cold and really hungry".

Flying out this morning, he could see entire hillsides had been eroded.

"There's going to be some incredible repair work needing to be done in Fiordland," he said.

Floodwaters pour into the Milford Visitors' Terminal on Monday. Photo / Emergency Management Southland
Floodwaters pour into the Milford Visitors' Terminal on Monday. Photo / Emergency Management Southland

Meanwhile, a Kiwi tramper has praised Wanaka SAR crews - and his daughter - for managing to find him after failing to return from a hike along the East Matukituki Valley yesterday.

In a post on Facebook, tramper Greg Wilkinson thanked search and rescue crews for safely evacuating them out of the track after being confronted with an impassable track due to a waterfall which had turned into a massive torrent of a water.

The 'waterfall' which was earlier 'just a trickle', according to tramper Greg Williamson. Photo / Facebook
The 'waterfall' which was earlier 'just a trickle', according to tramper Greg Williamson. Photo / Facebook

"We got stopped in our tracks by an impassable (to us) waterfall on our way out (only two hours from roadend) from and over night tramp to Rock of Ages bivvy," he wrote.

"We had PLBs but didn't activate them as it wasn't an emergency, only a weather delay, so we set up camp to wait it out. After 29hours the SAR team in the chopper were a welcome site - our daughter had raised the alarm when we didn't come home as per our intentions.

"A great lesson and reminder about having good gear, making good decisions and leaving clear intentions with someone. We will also now be buying a Garmin Inreach for communication."

Wanaka SAR crews help set up a camp after finding stuck tramper Greg Williamson. Photo / Greg Williamson
Wanaka SAR crews help set up a camp after finding stuck tramper Greg Williamson. Photo / Greg Williamson
The depth of water along a track in the Kitchener Valley. Photo / Greg Wilkinson
The depth of water along a track in the Kitchener Valley. Photo / Greg Wilkinson