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

The raging Inangahua River in the Buller District. Photo / Included

Hundreds of homes were evacuated in Buller Roofs and roofs were blown off homes in Wellington as the wild weather continued into the night.

The weather bomb that hit the west coast of the South Island this weekend – a 1 in 50 year storm – closed all roads to the Buller, prompted MetService to issue a rare “red alert” and regional emergency management to declare a state of emergency .

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said the river had swelled to an “extremely high” 11.3 meters but had not overflowed its banks.

“[It’s] at least a 50-year flood event. There was fear around 3.30-4am when we had high tide and there was a predicted tidal wave, but the tidal wave seems to have had no impact and the tide has passed and the river has held up.”

The rain had continued all night – and emergency services waited until dawn to get a better picture of the situation.

All roads into the region were closed, but contractors are said to be assessing the roads today to advise on reopening times.

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

Team manager Belinda Beets says many of them related to roofs being blown away.

Much of a roof came from a house in Newtown, roof iron, and a sign came loose elsewhere in that suburb as well.

Steel hung from a roof of an apartment building on Taranaki Street in the CBD, and doors were blown out in Ngaio.

Workers attempt to clear a slip on State Highway 73 at Rocky Creek between Otira and Jacksons.  Photo / NZTA
Workers attempt to clear a slip on State Highway 73 at Rocky Creek between Otira and Jacksons. Photo / NZTA

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

Last night, the army deployed 14 personnel and seven vehicles from Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury to assist with flood evacuations.

Many people were playing cards, Cleine said, where he visited each of the four centers this morning.

“They were just ready for some information, really, because the rain comes and goes here in the city. One minute heavy rain, then it slows down.

“We’re just reinforcing that message that while we’re very happy with how things are going, we need a few more hours for the river to settle down.”

In Westport, Fire and Emergency received 12 calls about fallen trees.

Squad manager Lyn Crosson says firefighters didn’t attend some of those because the council attended instead.

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