Areas of New Zealand are now flooding due to ex-Cyclone Debbie, 2000 evacuated from town south of Auckland

Photo: Fiona Thompson Mathias/Supplied

An Edgecumbe resident says he has “lost everything” after seeing his house fall victim to major flooding after the entire Bay of Plenty township was forced to evacuate.

Around 2000 people from 600 homes are being told to leave due to a “one in 500-year event”, with floodwaters reaching 1.5m and continuing to rise after the Rangitaiki River’s protective stopbanks on the edge of town were breached.

The Fire Service is using boats to help residents evacuate, with assistance from Mt Maunganui Surf Rescue.

Resident Dylan Taylor says he has “lost everything”.

“I didn’t know about any of it, me and my mate were sitting in the shed and my daughter ran out 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.

“We’ve lost everything, the family is safe – that is the main thing.

“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”, he said.

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 worsen probably between 8.30am and 9am.

Police and firefighters were at the scene and had called in a digger with the aim of trying to stabilise the section.
But 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 maybe about 50m long and 1m high. It was put in after the stopbank was damaged in the 1987 earthquake.

Photo: Hikitia Tutua/Supplied

Dominico Zapata is on Tawa St and said the evacuation is well underway.

“Tawa St is a basically a river at the moment. There’s major flooding”, he said.

Vehicles from diggers to cattle trucks and jetboats were being used to evacuate people and pets from the floodwaters.

Ross Boreham Whakatane District Council says the entire Bay of Plenty township is expected to flood.

“There’s a ute towing an inflatable [boat] down the street and there’s multiple jetboats that are helping pick up dogs”, he added.

There is a heavy police and emergency services presence in the area and the evacuation seemed to be well controlled and orderly.

Edgecumbe resident Dylan Taylor says he has lost “everything”.

“I didn’t know about any of it, me and my mate were sitting in the shed and my daughter ran out 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.

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne says there is a wall of water going through Edgecumbe: “it is a 500 year event.”

“We’ve lost everything, the family is safe – that is the main thing.

“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”, he said.

Shift manager Paul Radden said fire services were using their own boats as well as Surf Rescue boats from Mount Maunganui.

Photo: Fiona Thompson Mathias/Supplied

Fire services and Police are carrying out the evacuation after the Rangitaiki River breached its stopbanks at around 7.30 this morning

Water had reached 1.5m of height in a “considerable” portion of the town, and was still rising. High tide is at 3pm.

“There are a few places that even our trucks can’t get to due to the depth of the water. So we are using [boats] to get to those in immediate danger first,” Radden said.

“We’ve rescued several people.”

One person had suffered an anxiety attack due to the situation.

Anyone needing help to evacuate should ring 111.

“The stopbanks that protect the Edgecumbe town are in the process of being breached,” Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne told RNZ, describing the rise as a “500-year event”.

Police and fire officers have been going house-to-house, telling people to leave immediately.

“We’re in a fairly serious situation at the moment, we are asking everyone in the Edgecumbe town if you haven’t evacuated to self-evacuate.” said Ross Boreham of the Whakatane District Council.

There was a breach on the College Road stopbank and water was flowing into the town from there.

Boreham says the town is significantly inundated and water could be at waist-level in some areas.

Anyone who needed help evacuating should ring 111. Police and fire services would help them leave.

“Flow is also an issue that people need to be aware about,” Boreham said.

The evacuation was “well advanced” but there were still people who had not yet left.

He said the stopbanks breached at around 7.30am.

“If you can get to the fire station there are going to be buses there to help you get out.

“We’ve declared an emergency here and are just asking you if you are on low-lying land please move and get to higher land,” he said.

Residents could head to nearby Whakatane where two welfare centres were being set up at the Salvation Army and War Memorial. The roads out of the town were in good working order.

Another welfare centre has been set up at Firmin Lodge in Kawerau.

“There are issues with the breaches of the stopbanks on the Rangitaiki that are likely to create a significant flood event.

“There’s more water than you can believe”, he added.

The river runs along the east side of the town.

Vetz for Pets Business Manager John Dillon has had to evacuate his clinic and send staff home.

The flood water is coming down the road and into our clinic.

“The Rangitaiki River has breached its bank at some point and is flowing through the Edgecumbe township.

“I have never seen anything like this in my time, people are bit a bit anxious about it but everybody is safe at this point and time”, he added.

Local resident Sharlene Young is currently sitting in her car with her dogs in her driveway waiting to see what is going to happen.

She said the river has breached its banks at College Road and that the Fire service has told everyone to evacuate – letting people out but certainly not in.

Young is in Thornton, which is seven kilometres away from the township.

Her stopbank has half a metre until it breaches her property. Hhigh tide is 3pm.

“I’m seeing cars full of animals – people with either their kids on board and if it’s not kids then it is their fur babies. It’s horrid but nothing we can do about it. I’ve been through this before so I’m okay.

Erin McCulloch, who lives in Main St in Edgecumbe, was still in her home and said that her part of town had not been affected as yet.

Fonterra said that they would be making a decision on whether to evacuate their Edgecumbe site later this morning, where nearby stopbanks had yet to be breached.

Further inland, the Galatea community could be shut off as flooding in the Bay of Plenty continues.

Farmer Darryl Oliver said, “the Horomanga bridge has been washed out the Whirinaki bridge is closed. A lot of the smaller bridges are all in different states. There is a heap of surface water around”.

“In 2004 we had a big one but this is worse than in 2004, this is as bad as it gets. One of my neighbours, his irrigation shed which is on Whirinaki River had water all through it and that has never happened before. So it’s pretty high.

“We’re sort of isolated – I think they’re shutting the Whirinaki bridge.

“The milk tankers never came in last night as they couldn’t risk it. I’ve seen one in the valley – they must be able to get through and back to Edgecumbe.

“Everyone is fine, we are used to this in Galatea it’s not uncommon. It’s a great little farming community and everyone rallies around. If anyone needs a hand we all just pitch in.

“I haven’t seen any slips yet but there is certainly some erosion in the rivers by the amount of debris that has come down. We’ve got a stream that runs through our farm and the riverbed would have lifted a metre easily”, he added.

This story first appeared on Stuff.co.nz. See the original story here.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.