Some Piha residents say they are lucky to be alive after they fled their properties before slips and falling trees crushed their homes.
The village on Auckland’s West Coast is still cut off after Cyclone Gabrielle tore through on Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Roads are blocked except for emergency supplies and residents say most mobile networks are down.
“The devastation is off the charts,” resident Jenene Crossan posted online.
Crossan said her own home was mostly unaffected but other families had been displaced, power was out, and households’ food was rotting.
Homes had been completely demolished by slips at the north end of Marine Parade and on Rayner Rd.
Auckland Emergency Services said this afternoon that access was restricted to Piha and other West Coast communities because of slips. Around 20 homes were evacuated in Piha last night because of land instability, the organisation said.
Slips and flooding at the north end of Piha Beach. Photo / George Heard
A house on Rayner Rd which slipped down the hill after heavy rainfall during Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo / Paul Gillick
Some residents spoke of lucky escapes.
Vicky Pomeroy lives in a studio on Marine Parade, at the south end of Piha Beach. She had been digging channels to divert water from her property when staff from Piha Surf Club encouraged her to evacuate.
A large pohutakawa tree later crashed through the roof of her studio.
“It would have killed me if I hadn’t left,” she said. “The roof has been completely smashed in.”
She applied to have the tree removed in 2012 but it was given heritage protection, she said.
Vicky Pomeroy's studio home, at the southern end of Piha Beach, was crushed by a mudslip and treefall during Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo / Paul Gillick
A neighbouring bach which she owned was struck by a slip which pushed the back wall through the house. Photographs show all of the house’s furniture squeezed out of the front door.
“I was very lucky that our guests decided to go to Auckland or they would’ve been dead, probably.”
Vicky Pomeroy's rental property on Marine Parade, which was hit by a slip. Photo / Paul Gillick
Pomeroy said displaced residents had relocated to the Piha Surf Club and the Returned Services Association and were “swapping war stories.
“There was one couple who had a bach above their house on their property. The bach broke apart when they were in it, fell on their house and they had to be evacuated at midnight.”
Another Piha resident, Paul Gillick, said there were around five large slips on Piha Rd, the main road into the community.
He said there had been extensive flooding around Marine Parade at the south end. Streets near the river and lake - Seaview Rd and Garden Rd - were also badly flooded.
Auckland councillor Shane Henderson said he understood residents were struggling with communications and with getting fresh food.
They were cut off because of the slips but the roads could be used for essential deliveries and he was working on this with Auckland Emergency Management, he said.
Henderson said “it was absolute scenes” at Piha on Monday and Tuesday, with the area receiving more rainfall than most parts of Auckland. More than 200mm of rain fell on the village over that period.
“It just exacerbates these slips that trap people in their homes,” Henderson said.
“That community is resilient,” he added. “They need to be used to this stuff to some extent to live in those areas. But at the same time, this is really serious and we have to help them out.”
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