Rescuers trying to save people at a house party deluged by floodwaters were abused by those they were trying to help.
One woman swept away in a torrent was last night presumed drowned. Others had to be pulled clear of rising water to safety.
But some at the house at Haruru in Northland shouted and swore at their would-be rescuers. "They carried on drinking and doing the finger and [other] sign language," said Skywork helicopter pilot Roger Stevenson.
"It was not a nice situation, you're trying to do a good deed."
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Search efforts for the missing 28-year-old woman were suspended last night as darkness fell but would resume this morning, police said.
Neighbours said a "wild party" started at the house on Friday night. "But by half past three the music stopped. Everything went silent then all this screaming and yelling started up," they said.
Police were alerted about 6am that a woman was hanging on to a tree. Rescuers used helicopters, jet skis, inflatables and a tractor to help people stranded in trees and on car and shed roofs.
"Because of the state they were in, police decided that it was safer to take other approaches where the river was starting to recede," said Stevenson.