Storm cuts off schools and stu­dents

Taranaki Daily News - - National News - Michael Daly and Joanne Car­roll

Twenty-five Otago teens were stuck in a moun­tain lodge overnight and po­lice took stu­dents in West­land home as se­vere weather and ris­ing wa­ter lev­els left au­thor­i­ties on high alert yes­ter­day.

Otago Boys’ High School deputy rec­tor Mark Hooper said

25 stu­dents were stay­ing an ex­tra night in the school’s lodge in the Mt Aspir­ing Na­tional Park af­ter a creek be­came too high to cross safely.

Har­i­hari’s South West­land Area School prin­ci­pal Mark Caplen said the weather had been ‘‘pretty dread­ful’’.

The school closed at lunchtime but the roads north to Hok­i­tika and south to Franz Josef were closed due to slips and flood­ing.

The po­lice es­corted some stu­dents north to Ross. Caplen said the road at Whataroa was blocked by a slip and it was pos­si­ble chil­dren who lived south of Har­i­hari would have to be kept in the school overnight.

State High­way 6 be­tween Har­i­hari and Franz Josef was closed due to sur­face flood­ing at

9am. The NZ Trans­port Agency (NZTA) later ex­tended the clo­sure from Wood­stock Rimu Rd near Hok­i­tika in the north, to south of Fox Glacier.

West­land Civil De­fence opened a wel­fare cen­tre at Har­i­hari, south of Hok­i­tika, for tourists or lo­cals need­ing sup­port, with other cen­tres on standby. All schools in West­land closed as a pre­cau­tion.

Lo­cal civil de­fence con­troller Si­mon Bas­tion said flood lev­els on the Hok­i­tika, Waiho and Haast rivers were be­ing mon­i­tored, with the Haast ris­ing steeply.

NZTA said sur­face flood­ing re­mained a prob­lem along other sec­tions of the West Coast.

SH73 Arthurs Pass to Otira was also af­fected by flood­ing and strong winds.

West­land Mayor Bruce Smith said the Hok­i­tika River reached its first flood level warn­ing at 10.30am. High tide was at mid­day and about 300mm of rain was still ex­pected over the next 24 hours.

Fierce winds and down­pours were also fore­cast for cen­tral and south­ern ar­eas of the North Is­land yes­ter­day.

Along with high winds – in­clud­ing dam­ag­ing north­west­erly gusts to 150kmh in the Can­ter­bury high coun­try – and down­pours, the South Is­land was fore­cast to have a sharp drop in tem­per­a­tures, with snow pre­dicted for some ar­eas.

SUP­PLIED/BRUCE SMITH

A camper­van is par­tially sub­merged in West­land’s flooded Hok­i­tika River.

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