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Live: 'Intense storm cluster' warning for Auckland; grief for loved ones lost in flooding tragedy; 'significant' rain, gales, expected to hit city, Northland

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 29 Jan 2023, 9:39am

Live: 'Intense storm cluster' warning for Auckland; grief for loved ones lost in flooding tragedy; 'significant' rain, gales, expected to hit city, Northland

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 29 Jan 2023, 9:39am

The National Emergency Management Agency advises people to stay out of floodwaters. Even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet. Floodwater may be contaminated with sewage, chemicals and farm run-off that can make people sick. Put safety first. Don’t take any chances.

Aucklanders have been warned of an “intense storm cluster” approaching from the Hauraki Gulf towards Auckland and Waiheke Island.

Aucklanders are being warned to prepare for more downpours tonight, amid the potential for a second “atmospheric river” sweeping into the upper North Island later in the week.

Thunderstorms have also been predicted this evening further south in Manawatū, Kāpiti, Horowhenua, South Wairarapa and Wellington regions.

Forty five roads across Auckland have been closed or partially closed due to damage in Friday’s massive flooding.

Auckland Transport’s Andrew Allen urged people to take “absolute care” while on the roads

Slips and surface flooding was still expected, he said.

Trains are not operating today or tomorrow, he said, and the rail network had been hit by slips.

Meanwhile, loved ones have spoken of their grief of losing their whanau and friends in the devastating rain and floodwaters that hit the upper North Island on Friday.

Four people lost their lives on Friday as Auckland and other parts of the North Island were hit with up to 241mm of rain.

One man who died kayaking during the Auckland floods was surfer and arborist Daniel Newth, of Sunnynook.

Daniel Mark Miller, 34, of Wairau Valley was found dead in a culvert on Target Rd on Friday evening.

Miller had earlier filmed himself walking through the floodwater offering assistance to residents.

Dave Lennard’s home was hit by a landslip on Friday evening in Remuera during the height of the Auckland floods.

He is being remembered as a respected mechanical expert and long-time volunteer at the city’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).

More bad weather to come

A “significant” northeasterly rain and gale system is expected from the north in coming days and there’s potential for more slips and flooding.

Tomorrow will be a brief reprieve for Aucklanders to clean up, assess damage and clear gutters and drains in preparation for another major weather event

arriving on Tuesday and Wednesday, Metservice’s Georgina Griffiths said in an Auckland Emergency Management briefing.

Griffiths said the timing for this weather event is not yet firm and more details will be available in the coming hours.

Auckland Emergency Management Controller Rachel Kelleher said 19 homes across the region have been red-stickered.

This number is only the tip of the iceberg, with more than 5000 properties across 25 suburbs needing some level of assessment. A hundred and thirty assessors are on the ground between Wellsford and Pukekohe.

Flooding victim identified

Daniel Mark Miller, 34, of Wairau Valley, has been identified as a victim of the flooding event.

He was found in a culvert on Target Rd in Wairau Valley on Friday.

Miller was filming himself going door-to-door and checking on residents in the area before his death.

Daniel Miller. Photo / Supplied.

Daniel Miller. Photo / Supplied.

Tauranga landslide

Children, screaming and covered in mud, were caught in the rubble of at least three homes damaged in a Tauranga landslide last night.

A landslide crashed into homes on Egret Ave in the Tauranga suburb of Maungatapu about midnight last night.

A house has collapsed on Egret Ave,  Tauranga.

A house has collapsed on Egret Ave, Tauranga.

Residents said they heard a massive rumble that sounded like thunder and then screams.

Rebecca Hayes was fast asleep when the landslide crashed into her house.

“I can’t describe the noise. I got out of bed and was standing in the rain outside my bedroom. The front door was gone and the garage with all our cars ... are munted and toast.

“We are so grateful to be alive.”

St John treated three patients at the scene but nobody was taken to hospital.

Air NZ jet ‘loses control’ on landing

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into an incident on Friday in which an Air New Zealand Boeing 777 “lost control on the ground” during Auckland’s wild weather. The commission said Flight NZ 124 from Melbourne landed at Auckland International Airport during wind gusts and very heavy rain.

Chief Investigator of Accidents Naveen Kozhuppakalam said shortly after touchdown, the pilot briefly lost directional control and the aircraft veered from the runway centreline.

While the pilot regained control, “there was damage reported to six runway edge lights and to the aircraft’s undercarriage assembly, including deflation of one tyre. We’ve received no reports of injuries to passengers or crew.”

Kozhuppakalam has appointed two investigators. “The Investigation team have expert knowledge of aircraft operations, engineering and maintenance. Their initial work will be to interview the aircraft crew, air traffic controlers, relevant airport staff and other witnesses. They will also inspect the aircraft and runway systems, examining the site of the incident, obtaining any electronic recorded data and records.”

Details of the incident come as international flights at Auckland Airport resume this morning following two days of disruption caused by the bad weather.

Three people have died and one is missing after raging floodwaters and slips caused by an unprecedented deluge of rain across Auckland - easily the city’s wettest day on record. A state of emergency remains in place across the region. A state of emergency was also declared for the Waitomo District on Saturday night by Mayor John Roberston. The declaration took effect at 7.05pm and expires in seven days.

Robertson said the district had experienced widespread flooding and heavy rain, with reports of flooding, slips and inundation. Residents currently impacted by flooding are also being evacuated.

“The situation in Waitomo is serious, and with nightfall upon us and more rain expected, it’s important we are prepared and have the right controls in place to provide help and support, including further evacuations.”

In Auckland, there is widespread damage to homes, with many residents evacuated. Several homes in Hillsborough, Massey, Stanley Pt and Northcote Pt have been left teetering on the top of cliff-faces, following dramatic landslides.

As dawn breaks over Auckland this morning, residents are praying for an end to the at-times biblical deluges delivering devastating floods that have killed at least three people and displaced many more.

They are unlikely to get their wish.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said the record-breaking rain band that moved away from the city for a time yesterday will return today, likely bringing more heavy showers later in the day. More rain is predicted through to the end of the week.

While they won’t reach the levels of the downpours experienced during an unprecedented four hours on Friday evening, the amount of water lingering on the ground in Auckland could mean yet more flooding for the beleaguered city.

Auckland’s weather stations recorded staggering levels of rainfall during the worst of the storm.

The highest level was recorded at Albert Park, with 299.5mm in the 40 hours to 4pm yesterday, Hines said.

Over the same period, 276.8mm fell at Auckland Airport. That is the highest level since the airport weather station began collecting data in 1962, beating its own previous record by 50 per cent.

Ambulances lined up on Egret St.

Ambulances lined up on Egret St.

The torrential rains reached their peak in a hellish period from 5pm to 9pm Friday, when 180mm fell. Hines said that was equivalent to three Januaries of rain in four hours.

Thousands of insurance claims have already been lodged amid widespread damage across the supercity.

The floods also conspired to ruin the Auckland Anniversary weekend plans of many, closing the airport and cancelling events including the much-anticipated Laneway Festival at Western Springs on Monday.

Search and rescue lifeguard squads rescued 79 people from flooding in Auckland. Photo / Surf Life Saving Northern Region

Search and rescue lifeguard squads rescued 79 people from flooding in Auckland. Photo / Surf Life Saving Northern Region

The Gardens Music Festival, already moved from Victoria Park to the Auckland Domain, is still planned to go ahead today, but indoors at Spark Arena. Both Friday and Saturday night’s Elton John concerts were canned.

Tales of heroism and tragedy have emerged from the disaster, with emergency services and civilians swimming through perilous and filthy waters over head height to effect rescues.

Among the fortunate survivors was a 3-year-old boy rescued by lifeguards as he slept on a couch that was floating inside a home in Kumeū. On Friday evening police, fire crews and civilians waded through deep waters to rescue 30 residents from a swamped Pukekohe rest home.

There has been criticism of the delay in Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown announcing a state of emergency on Friday night, along with sluggish communications from officials and an absence of emergency warning text messages.

Auckland’s Domain became a shallow lake on Saturday with residents watching in amazement as a kitesurfer sped across the fields, replacing the usual cricket games.

Flooding at Auckland Domain on Saturday after the heavy rain. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Flooding at Auckland Domain on Saturday after the heavy rain. Photo / Brett Phibbs

In nearby Shore Rd, Remuera, tragedy struck as a man was eventually found dead after a landslide during the worst of the rain that washed away his home.

The Herald understands the dead man’s son, who was also in the house at the time, managed to escape despite being initially trapped by one of his legs.

The son, who was near the front door when the landslip occurred, then tried in vain to find his father.

Up to four people have died - three deaths have been confirmed and one person is unaccounted for, police say. One man was found dead in a flooded culvert in Wairau Valley about 7.30pm Friday and another man was found dead in a flooded carpark on Link Drive, also in Wairau Valley, about 12.30am Saturday.

Auckland Emergency Management duty controller Andrew Clark said yesterday fire crews and police responded to more than 2000 calls, including many people trapped in homes and cars by the floodwaters.

Flooding by Pukekohe Park raceway. Thirty rest home residents were rescued by emergency crews and civilians as their home was inundated on Friday evening.

Flooding by Pukekohe Park raceway. Thirty rest home residents were rescued by emergency crews and civilians as their home was inundated on Friday evening.

About 70 displaced people had visited Civil Defence Centres since they opened on Friday.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flew to Auckland’s Whenuapai air base aboard an Air Force Hercules. He met affected families and emergency services in West Auckland together with Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.

Brown inspected flood damage from a chartered helicopter as Hipkins did the same from an Air Force chopper.

Hipkins said Civil Defence payments had been activated and accommodation was available for displaced people.

“The levels of devastation in some areas is considerable,” Hipkins said.

He assured Aucklanders central Government would be providing more support in the coming days and told residents to expect more bad weather.

Hipkins thanked emergency service workers and all those involved in the response to the flooding.

“I want to acknowledge the way Aucklanders have come together to support each other.”

Mayor Brown said Friday was a tough night for the whole city, and its leadership.

PM Chris Hipkins, centre, and MP Kieran McAnulty arrive in Auckland and are briefed of the situation in the flooded city. Photo / Dean Purcell

PM Chris Hipkins, centre, and MP Kieran McAnulty arrive in Auckland and are briefed of the situation in the flooded city. Photo / Dean Purcell

He defended the speed of the emergency response and the declaration of a state of emergency late on Friday.

“The response was way quicker than people acknowledge.”

He claimed “thousands” of people were already “out there” before they declared an emergency

On Saturday he visited the emergency management centre, and said he was delighted to see things were getting better.

“There are a lot of messages to be learned about how we build and look after our environment.”

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown at the West Harbour Fire Station fronting the media after the worst flooding the Auckland region has ever experienced. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown at the West Harbour Fire Station fronting the media after the worst flooding the Auckland region has ever experienced. Photo / Dean Purcell

He said some of the houses should not have been built where they were.

Hipkins said we would not get into “second-guessing” decisions surrounding when the state of emergency was called.

McAnulty said the Government was to provide initial funding of $100,000 to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities in Auckland.

“Rest assured that there will be additional funding allocated once we have a better assessment of the full extent of the damage and its cost,” McAnulty said.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said he would have liked to have seen a state of emergency declared sooner and has called for a formal review of the flood response.

One person died following a landslide at a home in Shore Rd, Remuera, on Friday and another was lucky to escape alive. Photo / Dean Purcell

One person died following a landslide at a home in Shore Rd, Remuera, on Friday and another was lucky to escape alive. Photo / Dean Purcell

He would not be drawn on his views on how Brown or Hipkins had responded to the disaster.

“I’ve had Aucklanders express to me the frustration about a lack of communications. But I want to be really careful about us just jumping to conclusions ... especially about why it wasn’t as fast as it could have been.”

Luxon said the event should be a message to anyone not taking climate change seriously.

“Climate change is real. We have seen increasingly extreme weather events, we can point to the facts and the data. And it’s important that as we think about the future that we actually learn to adapt to it. And we actually make sure we’ve got the infrastructure support.”

The insurance claims have continued to pour in. AMI, State and NZI Insurance were yesterday morning expecting to have received more than 1000 damage claims related to homes, businesses and flooded vehicles. Vero said it had more than 300 claims for flood and storm damage while AA Insurance had more than 110.

At press time, Auckland Airport said there would be no international passenger departures until 5am Sunday, and no international arrivals until 7am.

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