* Civil Defence orders residents of the low lying areas of The Pines Beach to evacuate
* State of emergency declared for entire Canterbury region after heavy rain and flooding
* The Eyre River has dropped overnight and 133 residents can return home.
* The Ashburton river is 1m away from bursting its banks, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi says.
* MetService says more bad weather forecast to hit the already drenched Canterbury region - next 24 hours critical.
Hundreds of north Canterbury residents have been evacuated from their homes - and further south, hundreds more Ashburton residents are on standby - as rivers rage across the region, fuelled by a one-in-100-year deluge.
The entire Canterbury region is now under a state of emergency and around 75 schools and pre-schools are closed on Monday as residents prepare for more upheaval.
Ashburton mayor Neil Brown said some locals had already started to evacuate overnight as rising river levels continued.
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Locals starting to self-evacuate
About 60 people had self-evacuated overnight, he told Newstalk ZB's Kate Hawkesby just before 6am today.
Those people had stayed with friends of family, while others had hunkered down at Hakatere Marae.
"We've lost three bridges at this stage - that we're aware of."
Authorities are due to head out at first light to assess the damage.
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"The rain is actually easing at the moment. But it has been heavy rain right throughout the night," Brown said.
"We do have key messages for the communities - that is stay home, stay safe."
Schools would also remain closed until further notice.
Firefighters respond to water rescues, evacuations and weather-related incidents
Southern fire communications shift manager Simon Lyford said they had helped police with "a couple" of water rescues overnight, as well as helping police and Civil Defence teams with precautionary evacuations.
Other than those events, Lyford said Fire and Emergency NZ teams had been called to about 20 weather-related incidents in the region overnight.
Those incidents included reports of water leaking through house roofs and water entering properties.
There are currently ten state highway closures in place throughout Canterbury, Waka Kotahi said.
Canterbury residents can text RV then short code (river) to 3730 to receive river flow information from Environment Canterbury. The cost is 30 cents per message.
Red warning extended to 3pm
The MetService has officially extended the rare Red Warning for heavy rain for Canterbury.
The warning - which affects Canterbury south of Amberley - was initially due to lift at 11am today.
Locals are being told that a further 80mm to 100mm of rain is expected about the Canterbury High Country and foothills - bringing the rainfall totals for this area to above 400mm in some inland areas for the entire event, MetService said.
A further 30mm to 50mm of rain is also forecast on top of what has already fallen further east about the Plains and coast.
Peak hourly rainfall rates of 10mm to 15mm per hour are on the cards about the High Country and foothills.
"The rain is expected to cause dangerous river conditions and significant flooding."
Again, locals were warned that such conditions could result in more roads being impassable and communities being isolated.
On Sunday evening, Waimakariri District Council ordered residents living near sections of the Eyre and Ashley rivers to leave their homes. Stopbanks on the two flooded rivers were at risk of failing or expected to give way.
The evacuation order affects 133 properties near the Eyre River and 102 along the Ashley River. Eight households at Kairaki are also being evacuated.
Fire and Emergency personnel were assisting with the evacuations. Affected residents were told to stay away from the rivers and surrounding areas until further notice.
And as the Ashburton River rose to dangerous levels, officials warned that up to 4000 people and thousands of homes were at risk if it breached stopbanks.
Sandbagging was under way and the military had been brought in to assist should large scale evacuations be required.
The torrential rain is set to continue until later Monday - and many areas are planning for further evacuations, particularly near the Ashburton River which is nearing capacity.
Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Neville Reilly said officials were "just holding our breath overnight".
"Everything is holding reasonably well but we just can't afford to take chances. There's a lot of contingency planning going on so that if something untoward should happen we are in a position to get people out and give them somewhere to go."
Canterbury residents are waking to a region-wide state of emergency today after torrential rain caused rivers to burst their banks and forced mass evacuations in what is being labelled a one-in-100-year event.
Heavy rain flooded the region yesterday, closing roads, sparking dramatic helicopter rescues and sending Civil Defence scrambling to set up emergency welfare shelters.
And, despite parts of the region being already drenched by up to 300mm of rain, MetService warned that more bad weather was on the way and the situation could get worse before it got better.
Eight residents were evacuated last night from Geraldine retirement village, and six people tending stock were airlifted to safety yesterday afternoon after being trapped by rising floodwaters at Okuku in North Canterbury.
Ashburton, Selwyn and Timaru all declared states of emergency yesterday before a region-wide state of emergency was declared by Canterbury Civil Defence just before 5pm.
Emergency services had been bracing for the extreme weather, with forecasters predicting "red alert" rain conditions since Friday.
A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said last night their southern communication centre had dealt with around 100 flood-related callouts in the past 12 hours.
"That includes people with water coming into their homes and people needing to be rescued from floodwater, as well as things like power lines brought down by trees."
St John Canterbury district operations manager Curt Ward said staff had established an emergency operations centre in Christchurch and sent additional resources and specialist team members to the area to assist.
Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi addressed media in Ashburton on Sunday afternoon, saying heavy rain was expected to continue overnight and into Monday.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Ashburton River remained a major concern, and Faafoi said the next 24 hours would be critical.
The state of emergency for the Ashburton District has been declared for seven days.
Mayor Neil Brown said "half of Ashburton" would need to be evacuated if the river's stopbanks broke.
But there was "still quite a bit of capacity" in the river.
"We need it to stop raining to let those rivers drop," Brown said.
He said if residents were feeling unsafe they should call 111 or leave if it was safe to do so. But they should stay home if possible and "be cautious when out and about".
Police warned rubberneckers venturing out yesterday to see the flooding to stay home for their own safety and that of emergency workers.
The Ministry of Education said by 7pm last night, 52 of the region's 292 schools, and 24 early learning centres, had confirmed they would close today. Others would decide this morning.
NZTA was monitoring roads and bridges, and a number of state highways in the South Island had been affected by floodwaters.
A state of emergency had been also been declared in Timaru at 11.42am, said mayor Nigel Bowen.
"We want to give police the powers to force evacuation because we have some people not wanting to move on from specific areas.
"If you're being asked to move, please do so. This particular one was close to a stopbank and ... we just need people to be really sensible in their decision making today."
Two Civil Defence welfare centres have been set up in Geraldine at St Andrew's Hall and the Geraldine High School library.
A local Civil Defence emergency was also declared by Selwyn District Council at 2pm.
"With a declaration in place we will be better placed to manage road closures which are expected across the district throughout today, especially if the state highway network is affected," Selwyn Civil Defence controller Douglas Marshall said.
"We really do urge people to stay off the roads. Travel is likely to be disrupted for some time, and we do not want to see travellers becoming trapped."
Early on Sunday afternoon around 70 residents of Selwyn Huts were asked to "evacuate now" as the rising Selwyn River was expected to cut off access to the settlement.
Meanwhile, Selwyn District Council advised residents of Sheffield, Waddington and Springfield to evacuate if they had concerns, as surface flooding affected significant areas of the township.
A notice given to residents said the road would be closed after the evacuation order, and manned until it was safe for residents to return.
Evacuating residents were asked to secure their homes, turn off power, water and gas, and take enough medicines and personal items for two to three nights.
Resident Robby Hyde, who lives in the Upper Huts, said the river was expected to rise up the huts yesterday afternoon.
Of the 70 permanent residents he suspected some would choose to stay behind in spite of the evacuation notice.
"I think a lot of people will go, and a lot will stay, because it's their home," he said.
Fire and Emergency personnel are assisting with the emergency evacuations. The evacuation order affects 133 properties near the Eyre River and 102 along the Ashley River.
Eight households at Kairaki are also being evacuated.
Anyone along the river from Wolffs Rd and north of the river to North Eyre Rd must evacuate immediately.
The Ashley River stopbank is also at risk of failure and Fernside residents between Mt Thomas Rd, Oxford Rd and Merton Rd should evacuate immediately.
Affected residents have been told stay away from the rivers and surrounding areas until further notice.
Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon told Newstalk ZB they are in the process of evacuating people from the affected areas.
He said people should remain calm and check the District Council's website or Facebook page to keep up with the latest updates.
The council has also published a live version of these maps with street names included.
Ashburton preparing for mass evacuations as river rises
Ashburton is preparing for mass evacuations as the Ashburton River rises and heavy rain continues to fall.
At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Brown said up to 4000 residents will need to be evacuated if the river's stopbanks break.
Heavy rain is set to continue overnight and into Monday, so water levels are likely to rise, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi said.
Brown said if residents were feeling unsafe in their homes they should call 111 or leave if it's safe to do so.
"If they're feeling unsafe they should call someone, get some advice or leave. We've planned for this."
The Ashburton River is the one major concern, Brown said. Faafoi added that the next 24 hours would be critical.
Residents should stay home and "be cautious when out and about".
A retirement village in Geraldine had to be evacuated due to flood waters, with a spokesperson confirming eight residents had been evacuated.
Brown said while some flow monitors on Ashburton River had been damaged, others were still providing information.
In the last 24 hours, the Ashburton high country had experienced heavy rain which was making its way down through the river systems, Brown said.
There was still "quiet a bit of capacity" in the river. "We need it to stop raining to let those rivers drop," Brown said.
Emergency services were prepared for the bad weather due to forecasting since Friday.
Where to go for official updates
Remember, always call 111 if you think your life or the lives of others are in danger.
These sites contain flooding updates for Canterbury areas, including emergency notices, road closures, river flow, flooding warnings and places to get more information:
• Christchurch City Council flooding updates page
• Ashburton District Council flooding updates page
• Selwyn District Council flooding updates page
• Timaru District Council is posting updates to their main page
• The regional council for Christchurch: Environment Canterbury
• Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management page.