A hiker has revealed how her group narrowly avoided disaster as a landslide smashed through their hut.

A fellow hiker was lucky not to have been killed as a tree crashed through the hut.

Grace Houpapa was on the Routeburn Track, one of many areas in Fiordland National Park that has been affected by torrential rain and flooding over the past few days.

The aftermath of a landslide at Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa
The aftermath of a landslide at Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa

A state of emergency was declared yesterday for the Fiordland Community Board Area, and today Emergency Management Southland followed suit as extensive flooding causes significant problems across the region, including road closures and landslips.

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About a metre of rain had fallen in 60 hours in Milford Sound, 600mm of that fell in the 24 hours to 7am today.

Flooding in the Southland region has sparked a state of emergency. Photo / Civil Defence Southland, Facebook
Flooding in the Southland region has sparked a state of emergency. Photo / Civil Defence Southland, Facebook

On Monday, Houpapa and two friends from Hamilton were on the final day of their three-day tramp, when they reached Howden Hut, just an hour and a half from the end of the hike.

All day the rain had been increasing in intensity, and as they arrived a Department of Conservation ranger told them a massive landslide, about 30m wide, had cut off the track ahead and there was no way of getting through.

Grace Houpapa, middle right, with fellow hikers on the Routeburn Track as they braved the severe weather. Photo / Supplied
Grace Houpapa, middle right, with fellow hikers on the Routeburn Track as they braved the severe weather. Photo / Supplied

With the weather setting in it was decided they would likely need to be rescued by helicopter, and they settled in for the night with about 30 others.

READ MORE:
State of Emergency declared for Fiordland: Tourists trapped
Fiordland flooding: Landslide hits hut on Routeburn Track, hundreds trapped in Milford Sound
'Near-death experiences': Dramatic scenes as extreme weather hits Fiordland
Weather chaos: Hundreds still cut off by floods in Milford Sound

But near 1am this morning, there was a huge bang, followed by screams, Houpapa said.

A landslide had crashed into the hut, toppling a large tree that crushed a section of the building.

The group being rescued from Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa
The group being rescued from Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa

One man would have been right in the impact zone, but had moved just a minute before Houpapa said.

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"I think he'd heard something, and luckily he'd jumped out of his bunk, he was lucky he was not crushed."

But his wife on the bunk below was crushed as it collapsed under the weight of tree.

The aftermath of a landslide at Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa
The aftermath of a landslide at Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa

Several people worked frantically to free her from the debris, Houpapa said.

"She had minor injuries, but was in a lot of shock.

"The hut was completely shattered, toilets smashed, wall smashed in, timber frames bent and windows smashed. No one was hurt too badly, but we were all a bit scared."

A rescue operation from Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa
A rescue operation from Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa

There was little sleep from then on, and at 5.30am they received word the search and rescue team would be flying in via helicopter to evacuate them, depending on the weather.

By about 8.30am the helicopter arrived, making several trips to Te Anau, evacuating the injured first.

"We were quite lucky," Houpapa said.

"The DoC ranger and the search and rescue team were awesome, and made best of the situation."

Debris from the landslide that crashed through the hut.
Debris from the landslide that crashed through the hut.

Houpapa was safely evacuated to Te Anau and said the group were all pretty shaken from the experience.

"It could have been a lot worse, but because of the good group of people and the amazing ranger it all worked out as well as it could."

Like any experience in that part of the country, the weather changed rapidly, Houpapa said.

On the first day from Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut, they were blessed with sunshine.

Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park after a landslide struck it in the middle of the night. Photo / Grace Houpapa
Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park after a landslide struck it in the middle of the night. Photo / Grace Houpapa

They awoke to a bit of rain on day two, but nothing too out of the ordinary for the area.

On Monday as they set off from Lake McKenzie towards the Divide end of the track, the rain began to set in.

Grace Houpapa (left) with friends Ryleigh and Joshua in drier times on day one of the Routeburn Track. Photo / Supplied
Grace Houpapa (left) with friends Ryleigh and Joshua in drier times on day one of the Routeburn Track. Photo / Supplied

Crossing a section with an overflowing waterfall, Houpapa and her two friends linked up with five others - a couple from Scotland, two Australian women and a Swedish man - so they could safely cross.

Damage inside Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa
Damage inside Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park. Photo / Grace Houpapa

"It was a pretty hectic experience. But now that group of eight, we have a bond for life, we stuck together through the worst of it."

Southland flooding: State of Emergency declared

A state of emergency has been declared in flooded Southland, including Gore, this afternoon.

It was issued by Southland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group shortly before 3pm.

About a metre of rain had fallen in 60 hours in Milford Sound, 600mm of that fell in the 24 hours to 7am today.

Flooding in the Southland region has sparked a state of emergency. Photo / Civil Defence Southland, Facebook
Flooding in the Southland region has sparked a state of emergency. Photo / Civil Defence Southland, Facebook

The flooding and heavy rain has lead to the closure of most roads in Southland and some in Otago.

The Transport Agency has issued warnings to drivers in Westland to slow down for surface flooding and be ready for road closures.

In Southland, roads are shut apart from State Highway Six in Dipton, near the intersection with Bell Road.

Also closed is State Highway 94 in Croydon, near the intersection with Kingdon Road.

In Otago, surface flooding has closed State Highway 1 between Gore and Clinton, State Highway 90 from McNab to Tapanui and the State Highway 1 intersection to Station Road.

Meanwhile, more than 40 tourists trapped in lodges at Milford Sound will be rescued by boat today.

A state of emergency was declared in the area yesterday afternoon as flooding and slips trapped tourists on tracks, roads and at Martins Bay and Big Bay, and closed State Highway 94, the only road into Milford Sound.

There are 125 people across three remote lodges owned by private company Ultimate Hikes.

Company spokesperson Shaun Liddy said they are looking to bring 44 tourists out to Te Anau by boat.

He said 81 will be left to stay another night.

Earlier today helicopters rescued 31 tourists from the damaged Howden Hut. Eight helicopters ferried people from there to Te Anau, Glenorchy and Queenstown.

There are 195 people still stuck in Milford town and will stay there until the weather clears tomorrow when they can be transported out properly.

- By RNZ