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The small towns in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay 'desperately in need'

Publish Date
Thu, 16 Feb 2023, 4:52PM

The small towns in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay 'desperately in need'

Publish Date
Thu, 16 Feb 2023, 4:52PM

The horrors of Cyclone Bola 1988 became a history-repeating reality for Te Karaka as the entire township was left submerged by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We have experienced devastation,” Te Karaka School principal Renae Savage said yesterday as the clean-up continued after Gabrielle unleashed its fury, leaving people homeless and the school as the town base.

“The main priority for us is to make sure our whānau are safe, fed and warm.

“At the moment the infrastructure of the school is holding up, so it’s now the centre of the community.

 “We are just grateful we can supply a warm, dry space for everyone after the damage that has been done to the community.”

The school suffered damage but “nowhere near” the devastation of their whānau, she said.

“They face losing their homes.”

The sight said it all as The Gisborne Herald drove in.

Cars lay in ditches, silt covered almost the whole town and its roads and kaumatua flats on Barry St were inundated, leaving residents homeless.

“A lot of stock died,” one resident said.

Kanakanaia Rd was full of water, she said.

“All along the road was a raging river, Paulson Road was a raging torrent. It was all under water up to the fenceline.”

Entire fields of crops were covered in silt and ruined.

Houses all along Kanakanaia and Paulson Rds were inundated.

Kaumatua flats resident Anita Davoren was evacuated just before 4am on Monday.

Floodwaters inundated her Barry St flat, leaving carpets sodden and silt-laden.

“The whole place was under water,” she said.

Te Karaka Area School principal, Renae Savage stands barefoot in the silt outside the school yesterday. Photo / Gisborne Herald

Te Karaka Area School principal, Renae Savage stands barefoot in the silt outside the school yesterday. Photo / Gisborne Herald

Five other residents were inundated and are temporarily staying and sleeping at Te Karaka Area School.

“Thankfully the school is available for those who are now homeless.”

She questioned where people would find alternative housing.

“There’s no housing on a normal day.”

Farmer and equestrian teacher Jacquie Manuel and her family had a close escape.

Their Pine Hollow Riding School equestrian arena and paddocks off the state highway into the township were inundated with water as the river breached the stopbanks and covered the whole of the road.

Her son and daughter-in-law ensured their horse and sheep were moved to higher ground as the water started to rise.

“We were surprised we flooded here,” she said. “We were inside lifting stuff up off the floor of the house.

“The water was up to your waist across the road.

“We can’t believe this flooded because the stopbanks are here and this is higher than the stopbank.

“The kids were up the front pushing the horses out and my husband and I were around the side, and you could hear the water break over the stopbank.

“He was on the motorbike and said ‘we gotta go’.”

The family was able to get over the road to higher ground and stayed the night at the local Civil Defence emergency shelter.

Karl Vercoe and his wife said they “lost everything” after water 700 millimetres high inundated their property, leaving his work car submerged and ruined.

The pair put on a brave face when talking about the damage.

“What’s the point of tears? They only make things wetter,” Mr Vercoe said.

The worst thing was she was unable to let their son in Auckland know they were both safe.

Wairoa latest

The situation in Wairoa is clearer today, with the council’s Facebook page updating the community.

“Wairoa is still isolated both regionally and with areas of the district cut off. We have very limited electricity, and no internet or phone connection. These methods of communication are priorities that are being worked on,” a council Facebook statement said. ”As soon as these facilities are up and running you will be able to make direct contact with your friends and whanau.

“Those people who needed to evacuate their homes are safe and being looked after in the evacuation centres.”

Follow the Herald’s latest coverage of Cyclone Gabrielle here.

Yesterday Wairoa mayor Craig Little made an urgent plea for outside help.

“We would like to urgently request emergency assistance from all agencies,” he said in a Facebook statement.

“Parts of our district and community have been devastated. We are desperately in need of assistance.

A reconnaissance flight over the cyclone-ravaged East Coast and Hawke's Bay shows Wairoa cut off in the storm. Photo / NZDF

A reconnaissance flight over the cyclone-ravaged East Coast and Hawke's Bay shows Wairoa cut off in the storm. Photo / NZDF

“Hundreds of people have been evacuated mostly from properties surrounding the river catchment.

“The North Clyde side of the town has been hugely impacted.

“We are managing but our isolation means we are severely challenged particularly around food, water supply, fuel and communications.

“At this stage we have enough food, water and fuel for the next few days.”

The situation at Mahia appears to be slightly better.

Rocket Lab communications director Morgan Bailey said there had been no damage to the space company’s rocket launch site and it had successfully made contact with staff on the ground.

“Communications in Mahia are still patchy, but we have been in contact with our team and confirmed they are safe and the launch site is in good condition,” Bailey said.

“At this stage our operations aren’t significantly impacted, but we’ll be assessing this as the regional roading and access situation evolves in the coming days and weeks.

“From what our team tell us and what we can see in social posts from the community, Mahia seems to have fared relatively well as a whole, especially compared with the devastation in Wairoa.

“For now we’re focusing on seeing how our team and equipment might be useful to local response and community groups.”

Patience required in the supermarket lines

People queuing outside Pak’nSave Gisborne. Photo / Gisborne Herald

People queuing outside Pak’nSave Gisborne. Photo / Gisborne Herald

People were queueing for around one and a half hours to get into Pak’nSave Gisborne this morning, with the line trailing down towards Cobden St and back on itself.

The store has eftpos working but is limiting purchases of milk, eggs, butter and margarine to one per transaction with additional limits on long-life milk, frozen goods and toilet paper.

Security staff are limiting the number of people allowed in at one time and people are waiting another hour to get through the check-out.

The store is providing fresh drinking water and gave out cut watermelon to the shoppers waiting in line this morning.

Network advises to prepare for several days with limited power

Eastland Network, which distributes electricity to the region, is at reduced capacity and asks everyone to please limit their power use to help maintain the level of supply.

There are 4500 customers without power, including more than 1600 affected in Wairoa.

There is no timeframe on when power can be restored to these people, however, that is their number one priority.

Power has been restored to Gisborne city, including essential suppliers of food, fuel and health services; emergency services; and the police station.

Eastland Network is also running generators in Ruatorea, Te Araroa, Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay townships to keep their power on.

Houses are buried in nearly 2 metres of silt

Silt lies half-way up a house

There are also multiple major faults across Tairāwhiti, with poles and lines down due to floods, wind, trees and slips.

Access is limited or impossible in many areas.

Eastland Network crews are assessing the damage as access allows, and planning a program of repairs to undertake over the coming days.

Communities are asked to prepare for the possibility of several days with this limited level of power supply.

- Gisborne Herald


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