A state of emergency has been declared on the West Coast of the South Island after being hit by torrential rain today.
Westland District Mayor, Bruce Smith says this was declared at 5:45pm this afternoon.
Pictures here show water levels rising dangerously on the Waiho River in Franz Josef where the Waiho Bridge has now washed away completely.
The NZ Transport Agency is extending the length of South Westland’s State Highway 6 closure due to concerns about rising rivers and heavy rain still to come.
The closure now runs from Makarora on the Otago side of the Haast Pass to south of Hokitika. All through traffic will be stopped at those two points.
The highway was closed between Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers earlier this morning after two slips covered the highway, triggered by torrential rain.
More torrential rain is forecast between 4-10 pm and the weather is now travelling north up the West Coast.
The highway will remain closed overnight says Transport Agency Network Manager Colin Hey.
“Given the forecast rain to come, and the rivers rising, closing the highway to through traffic now will help us keep people safe into the evening hours.”
West Coasters are advised to avoid all but essential travel.
The Waiho River in Franz Josef is running extremely high as is the Fox River.
“Anyone on other roads on the West Coast, please keep your speeds down, there will be surface flooding. Watch out for speed restrictions, debris and road crews. Use your lights,” says Mr Hey.