Just minutes to escape chest height water
Resident reflects on loss after flash flood destruction
The watermarks lining Brian Thorne’s council flat tell a story. They reflect the damage to his “beautiful little home” hit hard by Monday’s flash flooding at Waihī Beach, which also saw multiple evacuations.
They also show just how severe the event was. The force of the water rushing through his home was so strong it tossed his fridge upside down to the other side of the flat, narrowly missing him.
Brian’s unit was the lowest of the 19 units on the sloping site. Eleven flats suffered damage and are being cleaned out. The fenced-off area that now surrounds the unit was abuzz with occupants, relatives, friends, council workers, and tradies cleaning up the site this week.
Brian was taking a nap on Monday when the rain started bucketing down. He took a look outside his front window and the “usual puddle” was a pool. Water started flowing in and sandbags did not curb the flow so when the water was 30cm deep inside his flat, he called his son, Craig.
“He’s just five minutes away and lucky for me, he wasn’t working but when he got here, three minutes later it was up to my chest.”
Brian had mustered his son’s help to stack furniture and belongings.
“The rain was coming this way and that way and it turned around again, it was all just so bloody quick. I thought I’d have half an hour with Craig to save some stuff. Craig just said ‘no, we gotta get outta here’.”
On opening the back door, rushing water tossed his fridge upside down to the other side of the flat, narrowly missing him.
“Then I was struggling to get over the [outside] wall because there was so much water coming down, my son just dragged me up over the wall.”
Brian’s home is now cleared out and just about everything went into a skip.
“The insurance company rang me and asked if they could come and have a look at my stuff this afternoon, I said ‘you’ve gotta be joking, mate, it’s all gone’!”
Brian said it was “devastating” to lose everything.
“Some of the tenants are in their 80s. As you get older, it’s hard to accept all these things . . . you just got
to keep your chin up.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council council workers volunteered to help with the cleanup.
Properties and tenancies team leader Nigel Sadlier says they’ve filled three 4.5m cubic skips and three 9m cubic skips and a rear loader truck came to collect more rubbish on Thursday.
“Our first priority is to make sure everybody has accommodation.
‘‘Our emergency management team started by working on accommodation — beyond the long weekend — so that was the first thing.
“The council volunteers have been great, they’ve put their hand up and are helping with the clean up.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor James Denyer said it was too soon to know whether the stormwater system needed any significant upgrades beyond what was already planned after the floods in Waihī Beach.
The council confirmed the units in Waihī Beach would be safe to live in again after assessments showed none had been declared “dangerous”.
Brian is living with his son but he plans to return to his little unit on Beach Rd at some point.
For more on Western Bay of Plenty District Council response see P6.