Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne is blaming a faulty sound system and his late arrival for the fiery nature of a meeting with flood-hit families last night.
Angry Edgecumbe residents stormed out of a public meeting as tempers flared over access to their homes.
At a press conference this morning, Bonne said the residents' response was "part of the grieving process".
He admitted that the strong response caught him by surprise.
"I was floored," he said.
"If we'd been there on time and the sound system was working it might have been different.
"Somebody cocked up unfortunately."
Hundreds of displaced residents had gathered at the Whakatane Wall Memorial Hall for last night's meeting, at which residents spoke of losing their homes and questioned the management of waterways before and during the disaster.
Mr Bonne today repeated a pledge to thoroughly investigate events surrounding the flood.
He said contractors were working around the clock but stressed that a state of emergency remained in force across the district.
In response to questions about the size and quality of a concrete stopbank which failed and let through floodwaters, Mr Bonne said he believed the proximity of a nearby road had influenced the type of stopbank that was in place.
"There have been millions of dollars spend on floodways," he said.
"But I can't guarantee that we can protect people from massive weather bombs.
"This was a storm of all storms and rivers were 30 per cent higher than what they were designed for."
Police Eastern Bay Area Commander Kevin Taylor said "a couple" of people had sneaked thorough a cordon overnight to get items such as clothes, but there had been no indication of looting.
A cordon remained in place to provide security for homes and for health reasons.
However, police hoped to reduce the size of the cordon as soon as possible.
In Edgecumbe alone, 1600 people have been displaced by the breach of the Rangitaiki River floodwall.
Floodwaters were still being managed and pumped away.
Residents whose houses were in dry areas would be given brief access to their homes today.
This would occur on a rolling basis at Awakeri from 10am to midday, Kawerau from midday to 2pm and Whakatane from 2pm to 4pm.
Bonne said he hoped that all residents would be able to return to their homes by Easter.
Some Taneatua residents have also been evacuated and this has prompted concerns about pet welfare.
The Whakatane Emergency Response Team and the SPCA have been searching for animals in Edgecumbe.
An official Give a Little page has been set up for the Edgecumbe and Eastern Bay of Plenty Mayoral Flood Appeal.