Tolaga Bay whānau airlifted off roof after flooding

By Jessica Tyson
Flooding at Tolaga Bay. Source: Lydia Edginton

Two adults and their four-year-old grandchild were airlifted by helicopter to safety this morning after their house was flooded and their wool shed washed away.

The couple were at Mangatokerau Road, off Paroa Road, north of Tolaga Bay, the area worst affected by torrential rain flooding since midnight this morning.

Tairawhiti Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller John Clarke says the three people were reported to be safe and well now with family, after an ordeal that saw them trapped on their roof since about 4am.

“The couple was wet and tired and the child is being assessed for hypothermia.”

Tolaga Bay hit by torrential rain flooding. Source: Lydia Edginton

Another two households about eight kilometres up the Tauwhareparae Road are trapped in their homes with flooding all around.  About 20 people evacuated from houses around the area and being housed at Mangatuna Marae.

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency State Highway 35 is closed from Tolaga Bay to Tokomaru Bay. Also, State Highway 2 at Mangatuna Road north of Tolaga Bay has been closed.

Tairawhiti Civil Defence Emergency Manager Louise Bennett said earlier the couple living on the Mangatokerau Road, off Paroa Road, believed the water was receding when a loud noise preceded another surge in the river close to their home.

“They managed to get on to the roof of their house to await assistance.” 

Rivers in the Tolaga Bay area had risen rapidly since midnight. Civil Defence believes the rivers have peaked and were now receding.

The rain is also believed to have affected residents this morning at Makorori Road and Okitu.

Motorists are advised to stay home unless travel is essential, and check the roads before travel.

Rivers in the Tolaga Bay area had risen rapidly since midnight. Source: Lydia Edginton