Cyclone Debbie causes distress across Aotearoa

By Lynette Amoroa

Heavy rain has caused widespread flooding across the North Island forcing about 200 houses in two low-lying areas of Whanganui to evacuate before the river is predicted to hit record levels.

Putiki marae relives their worst nightmare.

Putiki Marae Chairman Hone Tamehana told Te Kāea, “We just completed our insurance damage from the previous 2015 floods, which pretty much devastated the whole marae. More so our wharepuni, absolution block and the marae ātea itself."

Since last night’s state of an emergency call, access to several rural marae in Whanganui have been cut off and all schools in the Whanganui District were closed.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says, "It's not predicted to reach peak levels until tomorrow morning about 6-7 in the morning, equally its an unpredictable storm and the river flows down the channel pretty unpredictable too, so we've decided to pull the trigger early."

Emergency management staff including iwi representatives have been door-knocking in the areas of Whanganui East and Anzac Parade, advising residents to evacuate.

Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Chair Gerrard Albert says, “When we went out door knocking on Māori residences home to ensure that they saw that a Māori face and realise they are taking care of.”

In Auckland, the heavy deluge of rain last night and this morning has severely flooded Okahu Bay cemetery and Ngāti Whātua locals are working with the council to remedy the issue, the outcome may mean a three-day rāhui on the Bay.

Ngāti Whātua resident Te Aroha Morehu says, "We have to do a few activations working with the council to excavate the waipuke from the urupa. One of those things are where do we excavate the water too, and currently, the only practical solution is to deploy it into ia rua, all the different holes that are local and they will flush out into the bay."

Across the Bay at Kohimarama a resident Craig Jones tries to salvages his belongings damaged by an unannounced knock on the door.

"I heard a thud at the front door and I thought it was someone knocking at the front door, so I was walking towards the front door and got within 4m of it and then the whole door just blew in and then the mud and stones and timber and vegetation come right through the door and knocked me over."

After climbing out the sludge to safety, the worry wasn't over.

"We got to the other residents and everybody was okay but we just couldn't find one resident, so we got concerned he might have got buried in the mud."

Luckily they were all found safely. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff paid them a visit today, before surveying other damaged areas caused by the floods.

"The folk will be able to move back in i think the people in the affected units within the next 3 or 4 days and the other folk whose units haven't been damaged have moved back already."

Heavy rain warnings remain in place for much of the central North Island.