Eleven elder housing units have been evacuated and a group of tradies trapped after floods in Waihī Beach today.
Emergency services were called to “widespread flooding” at the small beachside town and “multiple evacuations” took place this afternoon.
Highways in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel were also hit, with State Highway 29 over the Kaimai range and SH30 near Manawahe closed due to slips. SH29 has since reopened with one lane in each direction.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council civil defence duty controller Peter Watson said 11 of its 19 elder housing units had flooded and residents had been evacuated.
Most of the pensioners were evacuated to the Waihī Beach RSA or were staying with family and friends. The council had organised back-up accommodation for the remaining residents, Watson said.
“We are working on confirming who has evacuated where in relation to our elder housing. We’ll be securing the flooded pensioner units overnight.”
Watson said the council was checking other places around Waihī Beach that were known to flood. It had received reports of the Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club also flooding.
Watson said Waihī Beach and Athenree had been the worst hit by the flooding, recording 60mm of “intense rainfall” in an hour.
“The weather may have passed but the impact hasn’t. We have people on the ground and others on their way to help assess things and get in touch with anyone affected.
“Our Waihī Beach community response team have also been activated.”
Watson said the key information for people was to go to friends and family first if they needed to evacuate.
If it was a matter of life or death, call 111. Otherwise, he advised people to email the council, or report via its website or Antenno app.
“Be careful around any flooded water, it may be contaminated.”
Builder James Austinsaid the rain started bucketing down around 1pm, and the heavy downpours didn’t let up for an hour.
”It came out of nowhere.” Browns Drive was completely underwater, Austin said.
One man’s house had been filled with a least 150mm of water and a car whose driver tried to drive through the floodwaters broke down, he said.
The floodwaters have left him and his workmates trapped as they could not use the flooded roads.
Waihī Beach resident Mandie Thompson said there was “so much intense rain in such a short space of time”.
“At about 1.50pm, I was outside checking the neighbour’s property and noticed a large puddle forming on Browns Drive at the end of Mayor View Terrace.
“About 10 minutes later, there was a torrent of fast-moving water flowing over the road and into the reserve.”
Thompson said a car was submerged halfway up the driver’s door and a man was wading waist-deep through the water.
Waihī Beach resident Angela, who did not want her surname published, said “big drains” directed water “straight on to the back of those council flats”.
She believed that caused them to flood.
“It rose so fast, so quickly, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“Our road was like a river,” she said of Fyfe Rd.
Angela said she saw firemen walking around “up to their chest in water”.
She said the back of her section had started to flood but the water had since receded.
Waihī Beach resident Allan Sole, who is also a Western Bay of Plenty District councillor, said he knew of “a few houses” which had been evacuated.
Sole said there was a “horrendous amount of rain” and “there’s a lot of water lying around”.
”But it has definitely started to drain away.
“Largely, the rain has stopped now and I guess it’s receding in many places.”
Sole said he was on his way to assess the situation at the flooded houses.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said it received a report at 2.03pm of a car stuck in floodwaters.
Fenz then received a few phone calls from the northern end of Waihī Beach alerting them to “widespread flooding” in the area.
The spokesman said “multiple evacuations” had taken place, with the Waihi Beach RSA being an evacuation point.
He could not comment on the number of people evacuated at this stage.
Police, Fire and Emergency and surf lifesaving crew were helping with the evacuations, he said.
“It seems to be slowing down at this stage in regards to the amount of emergency calls coming through.”
Police said they were responding to several weather-related callouts in Whangamatā and the Waihī area this afternoon.
Motorists were warned to drive to the conditions, especially in areas vulnerable to slips and surface flooding.
MetService earlier issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Western Bay of Plenty, Whakatāne, Rotorua and Kawerau this afternoon, but has since lifted it.
At 3.37pm, MetService detected severe thunderstorms near Te Puke and Paengaroa which were moving towards the southeast.
”These thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by very heavy rain,” a MetService warning said.
”Very heavy rain can cause surface and/or flash flooding about streams, gullies and urban areas, and make driving conditions extremely hazardous.”
The National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) advised that as storms approach you should:
- Take shelter, preferably indoors away from windows;
- Avoid sheltering under trees, if outside;
- Get back to land, if outdoors on the water;
- Move cars under cover or away from trees;
- Secure any loose objects around your property;
- Check that drains and gutters are clear;
- Be ready to slow down or stop, if driving.
During and after the storm, you should also be aware of fallen trees and power lines and avoid streams and drains as you may be swept away in flash flooding.
Additional reporting - Rachel Maher