Taranaki Daily News
‘Tidal wave’ swamps Edgecumbe
Dylan Taylor has ‘‘lost thing’’.
As the rain fell, the Rangitaiki River rose – until it broke through the stopbank and washed through the streets of his township of Edgecumbe, Bay of Plenty.
‘‘I didn’t know about any of it. Me and my mate were sitting in the shed and my daughter ran out [and] said that the wall had been breached.
‘‘Me and the bro went out to the end of the driveway and we could see a little bit of water going past. Then we looked out on the road and it was coming and coming.
‘‘I took the kids out and I went back to get some clothes for me, kids and partner and the house is under water.’’
He is relieved his loved ones have got out. ‘‘We’ve lost everything, the family is safe – that is the main thing,’’ he said.
‘‘I haven’t got a clue when we can go back. I don’t really know how to feel – sad, angry a whole lot of everything really.’’
Some 2000 people – the township’s entire population – were told to evacuate.
Russell Milne, who lives in Edgecumbe’s College Rd, said a ‘‘tidal wave of water’’ about half a metre high had poured through when a concrete section of the stopbank gave way.
Earlier in the morning, water started coming through cracks where the concrete slabs were joined together. It started to every- worsen probably between 8.30am and 9am.
Police and firefighters were at the scene considering how to stabilise the section when it tipped over.
‘‘It took the whole section out’’, Milne said. ‘‘The concrete section was pushed into the middle of College Rd. It [water] blasted down the road.
‘‘Luckily we’re on the high side of the road . . . Our lawn was still visible but the fire brigade told us we had to evacuate. They weren’t sure how long the stopbank was going to last,’’ Milne said.
He was told the water might erode earth sections of the stopbank. ‘‘Our house was first in line for that if if happened.’’
The affected concrete section of the stopbank was about 50m long and 1m high. It was put in after the stopbank was damaged in the 1987 earthquake.
Fairfax Media photographer Dominico Zapata, who is in the township, said vehicles from diggers to cattle trucks and jetboats were used to evacuate people and pets from the floodwaters.
‘‘Tawa St is basically a river at the moment. There’s major flooding’’, he said.
‘‘There’s a ute towing an inflatable [boat] down the street and there’s multiple jetboats that are helping pick up dogs’’, he added.
Roy Jones, who has lived in the area for eight years, said he grabbed what he could from a home which is ‘‘pretty well stuffed by now’’.
‘‘I was on pet rescue duty this morning,’’ he said. ‘‘I grabbed the dogs, a couple of guinea pigs and left the ducks to fend for themselves.
‘‘The only other thing I could grab was my passports and family photos.’’
Jones said his sister-in-law has been left with almost nothing after the flood and is taking shelter with family in town.
For some, thoughts are turning to how much worse it could get.
Rene Christensen estimates that high tide could see the water level rise by another two metres – putting further banks at risk of breaching.
‘‘We’re at the southern side of Edgecumbe where I think water is up to half or a full metre and there is still high tide to come.’’
Two welfare centres have been set up in nearby Whakatane, at the Salvation Army and War Memorial halls. Another welfare centre has been set up at Firmin Lodge in Kawerau.
A spokeswoman for Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said he had offered Government support to Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne, and Defence Force Unimogs were arriving.