City licks its wounds yet again
Christchurch faces another cleanup this week as floodwaters abate, residents return home and the damage to houses, roads and infrastructure comes to light.
The city received two months’ worth of rain in two days over Friday and Saturday, closing roads, overwhelming wastewater systems, triggering slips, forcing evacuations and causing widespread damage to property along the Heathcote River.
Further south, across Canterbury and Otago, the situation was even worse and states of emergency remain in place for much of the eastern South Island. Ice, which plagued many inland southern highways yesterday, was expected to be a risk again this morning.
The Christchurch City Council will assess whether the state of emergency should remain in place today, based on forecasting and modelling of weather patterns, tidal patterns and potential flood risk.
Some Christchurch homeowners still cannot get back to their properties today, as streets remain submerged. Civil Defence said others may not be allowed in if their houses were too badly damaged. Closed roads along the Heathcote River downstream from Colombo St remained shut overnight.
Nearly 30 Christchurch roads as well as Bossu, Usshers and Breitmeyers roads on Banks Peninsula remained closed yesterday.
The Christchurch City Council did not have a clear picture of how many properties had to be evacuated, or the number affected or contaminated by flooding. Customer and community general manager Mary Richardson said council expected to have ‘‘an accurate picture’’ of that today.
Civil Defence controller Steve May said remaining cordons or closures were due to contamination risk or because floodwaters were still too high.
‘‘It’s obviously troubling and upsetting for a lot of people, but the main thing is we’re doing the best with the information we’ve got.’’
Where people were allowed back, May urged caution.
‘‘If your house has had water through it, then your electrics are dodgy, so contact your insurance company and keep yourself and your family safe from contamination from the floodwater.’’
South of the city, evacuation orders were lifted for upper and lower Selwyn Huts yesterday. Upper Selwyn Huts residents were allowed back mid-morning followed by lower residents after midday.
Hut owners checked on their properties and retrieved belongings, and the Selwyn District Council provided accommodation for anyone who needed it again overnight.
The Christchurch City Council said heavy rain in the hill catchments above the Heathcote had filled several basins, which would take days to drain. Residents along that river in floodprone streets such as Eastern Tce, Riverlaw Tce and Waimea Tce either self-evacuated or were told to leave by Civil Defence and army personnel as water levels rose quickly on Saturday. Many returned home yesterday to survey the damage.
On Eastern Tce, Ange Bates and Chris Benn got their work van away from the rising tide, but were too late for the cars. ‘‘The water moved that quickly,’’ Bates said.
The pair were cleaning out their garage yesterday morning, taking stock of the damage from the ‘‘first biggie’’ since moving in a year ago.
Two Volkswagens would likely be written off, and a lawnmower and dryer under the house had been lost.
Mercifully, Benn’s four motorcycles were unscathed on their garden terrace.
‘‘We were watching and [the water] got to the top of that brick [step] and then it went back after a couple of hours,’’ he said.
They fared better than their neighbours, some of whom were evacuated by the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club.
Sumner lifeguard Kate Suter said nine lifeguards and four inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) from the Sumner and Taylors Mistake clubs delivered Civil Defence personnel to the doors of flooded properties to check on residents.
‘‘I haven’t seen anything like it before,’’ she said. ‘‘[The water] was pretty fast-flowing. It was getting quite high around some areas.’’
Many people had self-evacuated or were content to stay put, Suter said, but some needed help. One crew called on a property on Eastern Tce and ferried a family of four and their dog across the river.
‘‘They just wanted to come out of their home.’’
The weather forecast for Christchurch and the waterlogged eastern South Island is kind. Some rain was forecast later in the week, when another cold southerly front would hit, but MetService said heavy downpours were unlikely. A front is also expected to move up the island today, bringing heavy rain to Fiordland and Westland.