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Weather relief for Westland students but Otago group stranded

Newstalk ZB Staff,
Publish Date
Thursday, 8 November 2018, 6:27p.m.
The Otago Boys' High School lodge in the Matukituki Valley where pupils have been stranded by heavy rain. (Photo / ODT)

A police convoy is taking flood-stricken West Coast school kids home.

The region has been hit hard by prolonged, heavy rainfall - with the Hokitika River declared in flood.

Westland Civil Defence public information officer Andy Thompson told Larry Williams there was a risk kids from South Westland Area School would have to spend the night there.

But he says they're now heading home.

"They are being taken home in a convoy with police. Those children were basically going to Franz Josef area, so as we understand it, there won't be any children not at home tonight."

However, two South Island highways are expected to remain closed overnight due to flooding and slips.

NZTA is advising drivers State Highway Six from Hokitika to Haast and State Highway 73 between Arthurs Pass township and Jackson are likely to stay shut.

The wild weather is easing further north, where Wellington's State Highway Two over the Rimutaka Hill is now open.

A party of Otago Boys' High School pupils are marooned in a hut in the Mt Aspiring National Park after heavy rains rendered a creek impassable.

Deputy rector Mark Hooper said the group of about 25 year-nine pupils were scheduled to return today but the creek rose rapidly and became too high to cross.

All parents had been informed and there was ample food in the hut in the Matukituki Valley, he said.

It was hoped the party would be able to walk out tomorrow to a waiting bus.

A heavy rain warning was in place for headwaters of Otago lakes and rivers, which includes the Matukituki Valley, until 1pm today.

This comes as heavy weather batters much of New Zealand, closing a West Coast highway and prompting Civil Defence to activate in Westland.

MetService says Hokitika copped more than 800 lightning strikes in a 20-minute period this morning.

Motorists are still being warned of strong winds.



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