ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'The bed floated': 73yo scales brick wall to escape devastating floodwaters

Author
Megan Wilson,
Publish Date
Sat, 3 Jun 2023, 12:35pm

'The bed floated': 73yo scales brick wall to escape devastating floodwaters

Author
Megan Wilson,
Publish Date
Sat, 3 Jun 2023, 12:35pm

As the water rose up to the windows in her unit, flood-hit pensioner Colleen Nottingham grabbed her phone, bag and umbrella and “scaled up” a brick wall to higher ground.

The 73-year-old sought shelter at her neighbour’s unit and said she lost “absolutely everything” after floods hit Waihī Beach on Monday afternoon.

Nottingham was living in one of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s pensioner housing units in Beach Rd. It was one of the worst-hit areas, with 11 of the 19 units flooded.

The council has since said the units may not be safe to live in for months.

The council estimated 60mm of rain fell in an hour, causing flooding that forced up to 50 people from their homes, with 27 people evacuated and elderly residents rescued by firefighters when the water reached their windows.

Eleven of the 19 council units flooded. Photo / Alex CairnsEleven of the 19 council units flooded. Photo / Alex Cairns

Nottingham, who lived alone, said she was at home when the floods happened.

“It just started raining and it got heavier and heavier and heavier.”

Nottingham said the water kept rising and came onto her porch.

“Next thing, it started coming inside.”

She put a couple of things on her bed to try to save them, “but unfortunately, the bed floated and the dressing table fell on top of it”.

Nottingham said the water was up to the windows in her unit and it was “pretty scary”.

“I opened the back door because I thought, ‘I’m getting out of here’.”

Nottingham said she was almost “bowled over” by the force of the water when she opened the door.

“I scaled up the brick wall out the back and ran up to my friend Carryl.”

Nottingham said she had no time to get anything before scaling up the half-metre brick wall.

“It was raining so hard and I had to hold an umbrella in one hand and my bag and my phone in the other.”

After the rain receded, she returned to the unit to get her clothes.

However, “I’ve lost absolutely everything”.

“Years of memories and things have gone.”

Flooded council flats at Waihī Beach. Photo / Alex CairnsFlooded council flats at Waihī Beach. Photo / Alex Cairns

Nottingham said she had lost photos “and things that I treasure”. Furniture and electronic items were also lost.

She managed to save some jewellery, but her two diamond rings, which had been sitting on a table, had “floated away somewhere”.

“I’ve been looking for them but no, probably never find them.”

Nottingham said she had parked her car at the back of her unit on a higher bank, and was able to save.

After the flood, Nottingham said she called her son and stayed with neighbour Carryl Dutton until he came to pick her up. She has been staying with her son in Tauranga since.

The council was trying to find her emergency housing and had been “absolutely marvellous”, she said.

Nottingham said she was insured and had spoken with her insurance company, which comforted her.

However, “it’s left me in a turmoil of I don’t know where to go from here. We can’t obviously go back to our units”.

Nottingham said she enjoyed living there because Dutton lived in a neighbouring unit and they had been friends for nearly 40 years. The pair had been living in the Waihī Beach units for about six years.

The flood-damaged council flats in Beach Rd in Waihī Beach. Photo / Alex CairnsThe flood-damaged council flats in Beach Rd in Waihī Beach. Photo / Alex Cairns

Caryll Dutton, 74, said she was “lucky” her unit did not get flooded because it was higher up.

However, “if it had continued for another 10 minutes, we’d have had to evacuate as well because it was just about over my steps”.

“We were so grateful that the rain stopped.”

Dutton was at home when the floods happened.

“We were all just sitting in our little flats as we do and next minute, down came the rain with absolutely no warning at all.

“Within 15 minutes, they were flooded.”

Dutton said she saw her neighbours evacuating and “did what I could” to help them.

“I feel so sad and gutted for them — especially at the age we’re at. If you’re a lot younger, I think you can handle more because you’ve got that ability to think straight. And you’ve got the body that’s got the strength to shift things. Whereas we’re reliant on others, really.”

Dutton said the tide marks were visible around the units.

“Inside is absolutely disgusting — it’s just all mud, everywhere.

“All the fridges are gone, the washing machines are gone, because the water inside was up to the kitchen sinks and over.

“It’s devastating.”

Beach Rd in Waihī Beach the day after the floods. Photo / Alex CairnsBeach Rd in Waihī Beach the day after the floods. Photo / Alex Cairns

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Civil Defence duty controller Peter Watson said the council was looking at self-contained accommodation options in Waihī Beach for affected residents.

“This will ensure people have the independence they need, while staying within their community.

“Our goal is to provide as much stability as we can and we’re working hard to get pensioners back to their normal lives as quickly as possible.”

Western Bay of Plenty District Council said in a statement on Thursday said the tenants had a team of people helping them sort through their things, removing wet carpet and cleaning up.

“While all of the units have been assessed and are not considered dangerous, it’s going to be a while before some of the tenants can move back in,” the statement said.

“Making the units habitable with repairs, new wall linings, carpets and new appliances could take up to two months so our team are working on nearby longer-term accommodation for all those who need it.”

The statement said the recovery would be an “ongoing process” for many, and insurance companies would now step in.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you