Communication cut off, dangerous rushing floodwater on all sides and hours stuck atop the roof of a wrecked home.
Asomuamua Lauano, Team Work HB RSE worker team leader, was one of about 40 RSE workers and several locals trapped on Korokipo Rd, near Omahu in the Hastings district, when Cyclone Gabrielle burst river banks and left them stranded on Tuesday.
Lauano said he had felt worried about Cyclone Gabrielle on Tuesday morning and stepped outside to work out a plan when he saw the waters of the river fast approaching.
He returned to the house to tell the others that they would need to get up on the roof.
They were soon trapped in their accommodation with water up to chest height, flooding waterways on both sides and no cellphone coverage from 10am until around 5 or 6pm that evening.
He said they tried crossing the river, but it was too dangerous and they had to wave down people from the road and helicopters in the sky to draw attention until rescue teams from the army arrived to get them out.
He said they were one of the last groups rescued from the area.
He said he felt happy to be rescued and he thanked God for showing the way.
Some of the RSE worker evacuees staying at the Cook Islands Community Centre in Flaxmere, with Rosa Aokuso. Photo / James Pocock
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The group of RSE workers stayed overnight at Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere until they were moved to the Cook Islands Community Centre in Flaxmere.
Rosa Aokuso, from the Te Whatu Ora Pacific health team, said they had about 80 people at the Cook Islands Community Centre in Flaxmere on Wednesday afternoon, with capacity for about 500 people altogether.
They were expecting many more to come, mostly RSE workers, and some had already come from Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere which had reached capacity.
She said she wanted to thank the community and the Cook Island Community Centre for allowing the evacuees to use the venue.
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