Wild weather: Hundreds evacuated in Buller, roofs off in Wellington

Hundreds of homes were evacuated in Buller Roofs and roofs were blown off houses in Wellington as wild weather continued overnight.

The weather bomb that hit the South Island’s West Coast this weekend – a 1-in-50 year storm – closed all roads into the Buller, prompted MetService to issue a rare “red warning” and regional emergency management to declare a state of emergency.

Buller mayor Jamie Cleine said the river had swollen to an “extremely high” 11.3 metres but hadn’t burst its banks.

“[It’s] at least a 50-year flood event. There was anxiety around 3.30-4am when we had high tide and there was a predicted tidal surge but the tidal surge doesn’t appear to have had an impact and high tide has been and gone and the river has held its own.”

The rain had continued overnight – and emergency response personnel were waiting until daylight to get a better idea of the situation.

All roads into the region had been closed – but contractors would be out assessing the roads today to advise on reopening times.

In Wellington, Fire and Emergency had 28 weather-related calls overnight and responded to 19.

Shift manager Belinda Beets says many of them involved roofs being blown off.

A large section of a roof came off a house in Newtown, roofing iron and a sign also came loose elsewhere in that suburb.

Steel was hanging from a roof on an apartment block on Taranaki Street in the CBD, and doors were blown out in Ngaio.

More than 700 people in Buller were evacuated from low-lying areas to four evacuation centres in the district.

Last night the Army deployed 14 personnel and seven vehicles from Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury to assist with evacuations following flooding.

A lot of people sitting around playing cards, Cleine said, where he visited each of the four centres this morning.

“They were just ready for some information, really, because the rain has been coming and going in town here. Heavy rain one minute, then it eases off.

“We’re just reinforcing that message that even though we’re really happy with how things are going we just need another couple of hours to make sure the river has settled down.”

In Westport, Fire and Emergency received 12 calls about trees that had blown down.

Shift manager Lyn Crosson says fire crews didn’t attend some of those because the council attended instead.


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