People were evacuated and the New Zealand Defence Force was called in as Civil Defence in Timaru – and later Oamaru – responded to a sustained rain storm that triggered a state of emergency.
It was dark when some of the 24 military personnel helped emergency services evacuate people from riverside properties at Rangitata Huts, Milford, Waipopo and Stratheona Huts.
The NZDF sent nine trucks, an ambulance, and 24 soldiers to combat flooding in Canterbury and Otago, with 60 more troops placed on standby.
Roads in and out of Timaru were at times barely passable as surface flooding deepened and swollen waterways breached their banks and made driving dangerous. State Highway One was at times closed south of Pareora and north, at Washdyke.
Waimate, Makikihi, St Andrews and Pareora were all isolated in terms of State Highway access last night and officials wanred that may extend into today.
Meanwhile, civil defence welfare centres were set up at the Alpine Events Centre in Temuka, the Pleasant Point community centre and at the Southern Trust Events Centre in Timaru.
Those affected in Temuka and Pleasant Point were largely selfevacuees. Timaru’s centre was effectively on standby last night.
Power was still out in some parts of Timaru, Temuka and Pleasant Point last night conditions made it unsafe for crews to work on power lines.
The district was warned to prepare for further heavy rain after 34.4 millimetres fell between 5am and when the rain eased – albeit slightly- at 7pm.
MetService duty forecaster Larissa Marintchenko said more rain was expected overnight and into the morning, with heavy falls possible.
The rain was something of a record setter. The average rainfall for all of July was 42mm: 10mm fell during July 2015, and 26mm fell during July 2016.
Timaru’s maximum wind gust yesterday was 83kmh. Rain should ease by midday today, she said.
The Waitaki District declared a state of emergency last night and as yesterday’s rain in Oamaru outstripped the previous July record.
Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher described the developing situation as the worst flooding he had seen in 10 years.
One of two defence force unimogs sent to the district was dispatched to evacuate a small child to Dunedin Hospital.
There were multiple roads closed in the region, including SH1 north of Oamaru and SH83 from Kurow to Oamaru.
Sandbags were made available to affected residents.
Waimate District did not declare though there was significant surface flooding on the roads surrounding the town.
Mayor Craig Rowley urged people not to travel unless they had to. The township was not as affected as the rural and low lying areas, especially near Morven, were worse off.
He confirmed seven residents at Pareora Huts had voluntarilly evacuated at 3pm.
Timaru District Council Civil Defence shift controller Justin Bagust said about 30 people from Blandswood and Milford Huts had also self evacuated.
The Temuka and Opihi rivers had not breached their banks by early last night but Civil Defence expected to keep monitoring them overnight, Baguist said.
Environment Canterbury was confident the rivers would not top their banks – ‘‘but we’re preparing for the worst’’, Bagust said.
Earlier, the council warned residents in flood-prone areas they should prepare to evacuate at short notice.
‘‘We would strongly advise people in these areas to get themselves prepared to leave as soon as they feel at risk, not to wait for any official notification,’’ he said.
‘‘This is a quickly developing situation and people need to be ready to go. This means ensuring you have clothes and fuel, as well as things such as knowing where family pets are.
‘‘We are continuing to monitor the situation to ensure people have notification, but our strong message is that if people feel at risk at the moment they should evacuate themselves to friends or family.’’
People who felt unsafe were advised to evacuate immediately without waiting for notification. Emergency services were to continue checking at-risk areas and would help evacuate.
A number of roads in low-lying areas were closed and official warned against non-essential travel.
All Timaru District fords were closed to traffic.
Several state highways remained closed last night due to flooding. They were SH79 between Fairlie and Geraldine, SH1 from Redruth to Pukeuri, SH1 from the Timaru SH8 junction to Beaconsfield Rd, SH83 from Duntroon to Pukeuri, and SH82 from Kurow to Waimate.
‘‘This is a quickly developing situation and people need to be ready to go.’’ Timaru District Council Civil Defence shift controller Justin Bagust