Timaru District Council orders some residents to evacuate immediately as floodwaters rise

Source: 1News

Relive 1 NEWS' updates on the wild weather in Canterbury. Click here for live updates as coverage continues through the afternoon.

1.10pm: The closure on SH75 Little River has been extended to cover Barrys Bay to Birdlings Flat, Waka Kotahi/NZTA said people should continue to avoid travel.

1.05pm:  Timaru District Council Civil Defence have just sent out an emergency alert to residents in the Coopers Creek catchment north of the Orari River to evacuate immediately due to flooding.

Residents in low-lying areas are advised to leave now, if it is safe to do so, and move to higher ground and stay with family of friends.

As an alternative, evacuees can go to the Temuka Civil Defence Centre - Alpine Energy Stadium situated in the Temuka Domain, or the Geraldine Civil Defence Centre situated at Geraldine High School.

12.38pm:  The closure on SH75 Little River has been extended to cover Barrys Bay to Birdlings Flat, Waka Kotahi New Zeland Transport Agency says. Motorists have been advised to continue to avoid travel. 

12.33pm: A MetService Radar image showing rain across the country.

The red alert warning over Canterbury will remain in place until 7pm tonight. 

12.21pm: The flood warning system has been activated in Southland.

According to Environment Southland:

The Mataura River at Cattle Flat was 1.24 metres above normal and rising 60 mm/hour
The Mataura River at Pyramid was 1.18 metres above normal and rising 67 mm/hour
The Waikaia River at Waikaia was 1.88 metres above normal and rising 65 mm/hour
The Waikaia River at Mahers beach was 1.72 metres above normal and rising 43 mm/hour
The Oreti River at Lumsden Cableway was 2.45 metres above normal and rising 119 mm/hour
The Irthing Stream at Ellis Road was 1.98 metres above normal and rising 82 mm/hour
The Pourakino River ds Ermedale Road was 2.84 metres above normal and rising 48 mm/hour
The Waiau River Te Waewae Lagoon was 1.64 metres above normal and falling 16 mm/hour

Data was not available at the time of broadcast for the following sites:

The Mataura River at Tuturau
The Otapiri Stream at Otapiri Gorge

For more information, phone 03 211 5010.

12.11pm: A map of road closures in Christchurch can be found here.  

Roads that are currently closed due to flooding will remain closed until at least 9am tomorrow morning, the Christchurch City Council says.

Selwyn Bridge just south of Christchurch remains closed while an inspection is underway.

12.02pm: The New Zealand Army says it has "assets around the region in Timaru, Geraldine, Ashburton, Waimakariri and Burnham assisting where needed". 

"In Ashburton and Timaru, soldiers were involved in numerous evacuations and also helped transport midwives in Timaru to the local hospital."

11.52am:  Wastewater from the Ashburton wastewater treatment system near Wilkins Road may be flowing into Carters Creek, which feeds into Lake Hood, the Ashburton District Council said today on Facebook.

"As previously advised, people should avoid all floodwater and assume that it is contaminated."

11.35am:  Parts of Akaroa township are experiencing severe flooding caused by what's believed to be blocked pipes, the Christchurch City Council said today on Facebook. Council staff and contractors are on site to assess the situation.

People have been advised to avoid travelling through the recreation grounds where the worst of the flooding has hit, the council said. 

It is possible the water may be contaminated. Anyone who comes into contact with floodwaters have been advised to change out of any wet clothes and shoes and put them aside to be washed later. Wash skin that has come into contact with floodwaters and wash your hands as soon as you reasonably can - or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Brittan Terrace and Pigeon Bay Roads are closed due to a slip.

Rue Lavaud, the road into Akaroa township, is currently open but access is limited due to severe flooding.

A Waimakariri resident and her dog has spent the night in her car outside the Mandeville evacuation centre.

Motorists have been advised to take extreme care on the roads.

 SH75 Little River is now also closed between Morrisons Rd and Church Rd due to flooding.

SH77 is now closed from Rakaia Gorge to Winchmore due to a washout. SH1 Burnham to Dunsandel, SH1 Temuka to Hinds, SH73 Darfield to Castle Hill, SH77 Darfield to Mount Hutt, SH79 Fairlie to Rangitata & SH8 Burkes Pass remain closed. Motorists have been advised to continue to avoid travel.

11.12am:  Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support, Katrina Casey, says 97 out of 292 of the region's schools and kura are closed today. Fifty of the region's 544 early learning services are also closed. 

"We are working closely with those schools, kura and early learning services that need additional advice and support," she said. 

"The decision to close remains that of the Board of Trustees for schools and Centre Managers/Owners for Early Learning services.

"The best information will come from schools themselves and parents and whānau are advised to check their school’s website or Facebook page or contact them directly for the latest information.”

10.46am: Wairarapa woman Kath Wilkie told 1 NEWS she had travelled down to Waimakariri to visit her nephew for a housewarming when the floods hit.

She says she was having dinner while watching a movie when “next minute, there were knocks on all the windows and two or three firemen saying, ‘Gotta get out, it’s evacuation’”.

They were evacuated to the Mandeville evacuation centre. 

“We grabbed a few bits and pieces, didn’t really think we were going to be here all night so we’ve come with very little.”

Wilkie remained upbeat despite the circumstances, praising the staff as "absolutely amazing". 

"I slept on some chairs pushed together with a mat on it and the back and my neck are telling me how uncomfortable that was but yeah, they've been wonderful," she said. 

10.26am:  A humid southeast flow is expected to bring further heavy rain to parts of Canterbury - which remain under a red alert warning -although rain is easing or expected to ease during the course of the day, MetService says.

A heavy rain warning (orange) also remains in place for Marlborough about and south of Kaikōura.

The Kaiapoi River has burst its banks, causing flooding to the Northern Bulldogs' rugby league grounds.

Severe gale southeasterlies are expected along coastal areas of Canterbury about and north of Banks Peninsula this morning, while a watch remains in force for coastal areas of Marlborough.

"This is a severe heavy rainfall event for Canterbury. Dangerous river conditions and widespread flooding are still ongoing in some areas. Slips and floodwaters are disrupting travel, making some roads impassable and isolating communities," MetService said.

The weather service said further power outages are also likely.

People have been advised to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and any advice from local authorities.

10.21am: The Kaiapoi River has burst its banks, flooding the Northern Bulldogs rugby league grounds. 

The New Zealand Army said on Twitter this morning that it has "sent assets to assist civil authorities" during the Christchurch floods, including soldiers, trucks and liaisons officers in the emergency operations centre.

10.10am: Waimakariri Civil Defence is urging residents to take care on the roads and keep up to date with flooding information throughout the day, the Waimakariri District Council says. 

"While the rain may be lighter, river levels remain dangerously elevated and it will take some time until the risk is gone," the council said.

Residents are asked to stay off the roads and avoid travelling if possible, and anyone who needs to drive has been urged to "take it slow and leave plenty of following distance between vehicles".

People have also been reminded that they should avoid driving through flooded areas and in the immediate vicinity of rivers.
"The biggest risk to the Waimakariri remains the high level of the Ashley River at the potential for it to top over the stop banks. Civil Defence have identified three areas where residents are asked to be prepared to evacuate if ordered."

The evacuation map can be found here. 

MetService says while rain continues to fall in Canterbury today, it has "eased somewhat in Mid and South Canterbury".

"Rain will clear everywhere tomorrow followed by a few days of dry weather," the weather service said.

9.38am:  Waimakariri resident Graham Dolan and his family slept in the car with his dog after being forced to evacuate from his home last night. 

Waimakariri resident Graham Dolan with his dog.

The scene at the Mandeville evacuation centre where Waimakariri residents stayed overnight.

The Mandeville evacuation centre where some evacuated Waimakariri residents stayed overnight.

9.24am:   Civil Defence requires all residents of the low lying areas of The Pines Beach, particularly around Dunns Ave to evacuate now, Waimakariri District Council says.

"A flood gate is stuck open and areas of The Pines Beach may be flooded. The Civil Defence Centre at Rangiora Baptist Church is open for people who need somewhere to stay.

"Residents on the higher sections of The Pines Beach can stay if they wish, but may be isolated for some time if Beach Road floods. We will give updates on our Facebook page and website when it is safe to return, however it may be some time."

Emergency services will be assisting with the evacuation.

8.53am: SH1 is now closed from Temuka to Hinds, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency says.

The following closures remain in place:

SH1 Burnham to Dunsandel
SH73 Darfield to Castle Hill
SH77 Darfield to Mount Hutt
SH77 Rakaia Gorge to Methven
SH79 Fairlie to Rangitata
SH8 Burkes Pass

8.46am: The next high tide is at about 8.30am this morning, according to the Waimakariri District Council.

"This will coincide with higher river flows in both the Ashley and Waimakariri, as well as potentially wind/storm surge. The Kairaki and Waikuku Beach areas will be closely monitored during this time," the council said in an update. 

Low-medium risk areas where people should be prepared to evacuate if they receive an emergency text alert: 

Fernside Road and Southbrook Area - between Oxford Road through Southbrook and to State Highway One. Includes area between Oxford Road, Fernside Road, Lineside Road, Marsh Road and Tuahiwi Road. Includes Southbrook industrial area. We are not currently concerned about the Kaiapoi Urban Area. Please check evacuation maps and be ready to evacuate if told to do so. Approximately 518 properties.

Waikuku Area - between Gressons Road, Coldstream Road and the Ashley River. Includes Waikuku Beach Township. Please check evacuation maps and be ready to evacuate if told to do so. Approximately 628 properties.

North Of Ashley River - East Of Ashley Village – Between upper Sefton Road and Ashley River, from Ashley Village to the Coast. Please check evacuation maps and be ready to evacuation if told to do so. Approximately 169 properties.

High-risk areas where people have already abeen ordered to evacuate and anyone remaining has been ordered to leave now:  

Fernside residents between Oxford Road / Mount Thomas Road and the Ashley River – from Mertons Road up until the junction of the Okuku and Ashley Rivers. Rangiora urban areas are presently considered safe. Emergency services have finished evacuating this area. Approximately 113 properties.

The Ashburton wastewater pond treatment facility at Wilkins Road has been flooded, leading to contaminated water mixing with floodwater downstream from Wilkins Road outside Tinwald, according to the Ashbrton District Council.

"This is a public health risk. People in this area should avoid all contact with floodwater and assume is it contaminated," the council said today in an update. 

"If you do come into contact with flood waters, change out of any wet clothes and shoes and put them aside to be washed later. Wash skin that has come into contact with flood waters, and wash your hands as soon as you reasonably can – or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser."

Further advice on managing safely and cleaning up after flooding can be found here.

The Ashburton Museum, Library and EA Networks Centre remain closed today. The Ashburton Resource Recovery Park will be open. People have been urged to avoid travelling if they can. 

To receive free important text message alerts for your area of the Ashburton District, text your postcode to 4196.

8.31am: The swollen Ashley River remains the biggest threat to the Waimakariri area, which has the potential to top over the stopbanks.

Graham Dolan, a resident who was forced to evacuate his home as a precaution overnight, told reporter Thomas Mead it was "a bit hard to believe". 

"We slept in the car because we had a little dog with us but yeah, it was a bit of a rough night," he said.  Couple hours of sleep then get up, have a cup of tea and try and have a little bit more of a nap - all part of the parcel, I suppose."  

Many people will be returning home today with the hope the rivers don't break their banks.

8.20am: Sixteen people stayed at Hakatere Marae, just north of Ashburton, overnight as the floodwaters continued to batter the region.

"We got all the mattresses ready for everybody so they could come into the whare and have a rest if they wanted - it was nice and warm ... just made the place feel homely for them, so that they feel OK here," Tania Reuben told Breakfast.

"We're still open if anything happens today. We're still open for people to come - we welcome them. We'll look after them and keep them safe and happy."

8.04am: The Selwyn River has broken its banks.

Anyone concerned they have low lying farmland near a river can text the name of the river to 3730 for free up-to-date information on the river's conditions. 

Meanwhile, nearly 600 people have been evacuated in the Waimakariri district, and Civil Defence says a total of 250 properties in the area were evacuated as a precaution, including around Fernside, Eyre River, near the Ashley River and eight properties at Kairaki Beach.

Nearly 100 people have also been evacuated from the Selwyn district. 

7.48am: There were some heroic rescues yesterday as heavy rain pounded the Canterbury region, including a couple who were stuck and stranded inside their vehicle "on the other side of what's normally a creek" before being spotted by farmer Chris Allen.

Allen called upon farmer David Clark, who showed up with lifejackets and got them out of the car.

"I went for a quick drive up the farm just to see if things had changed overnight. As I was coming down, I saw a vehicle coming from south, heading north, and thought, 'What a bunch of idiots out there driving at this time of day down the road - it was flooding,'" Allen said. 

"Five minutes later, I looked across and there was some lights on the other side of what is normally a creek and right next to the south branch of the river and I thought, 'That's a silly place to be'. There was nothing I could do so I just rang 111."

He said while the couple had already called emergency services, Allen said he knew they would be unable to reach them in time so he woke up Clark for help with the rescue. 

"It was a pretty nervous time with some pretty swift floodwaters."

"Look, you do what you do in rural communities, we step to it... We've each helped with our own times of emergency... so you just get on with it and that's exactly what we did," Clark said.

7.33am: Butler said there were three rescues up the bottom of the foothills this morning, with Fire and Emergency at the scene as first responders "but made some fantastic decisions not to fully commit to those rescues and wait for other resources from other agencies". 

"They made a good call by not committing to that so that was great."

7.23am:   Chief Fire Officer at Ashburton Fire Station, Alan Burgess, told Breakfast it was "pretty crazy and I think with the amount of water that certainly fell on the foothills and the amount that came through the town, we were busy for a while".

"It was a pretty full-on day - about 15 hours worth so it was good to get the end of it."

Assistant Area Commander and Taskforce Commander Steven Butler said a taskforce from Timaru and Christchurch, Waimate and Littleton was set up to assist Ashburton volunteers. 

7.05am: Breakfast's John Campbell says the situation in Ashburton “is bad but could have been worse”.

Nineteen roads are closed and three bridges are down and its unknown what state other roads are in. Crews will be sent out at first light to inspect the roads.

There are also widespread school closures and students, parents and guardians have been advised to check before they leave home. People have been advised to work from home if possible and their workplace allows. 

6.39am:  "The weather's been pretty horrendous," Ashburton district mayor Neil Brown told Breakfast. "We've had about a third of our annual rainfall in 48 hours." 

Brown said the Ashburton River / Hakatere is being monitored "very, very closely" as large amounts of water continues to flow.

"She's a raging torrent out there but it's staying pretty well and its banks at the moment have breached a couple places way up country but it's pretty well staying where it belongs at the moment."

6.30am: Multiple stretches of State Highway 1 is closed as the Canterbury region enters its third day of a red weather alert, Breakfast reporter Isaac Gunsson told Breakfast. 

SH1 is closed between Burnham to Dunsandel, according to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.  Motorists have been advised to avoid the area or delay their journey as anywhere south of Dunsandel is "essentially disconnected from Christchurch". 

Full list of road closures:

SH1 Temuka near intersection with Arowhenua Rd
SH1 Hinds River Bridge
SH1 Ashburton near intersection with Saunders Rd
SH79 Fairlie to Rangitata
SH77 Rakaia Gorge to Methven
SH77 Glentunnel to Windwhistle
SH73 Springfield to Castle Hill
SH8 Fairlie to Tekapo (Burkes Pass)
SH1 and SH8 Timaru to Fairlie

Rainfall is expected to continue throughout the day, with rain expected to top 400mm in some parts of the region - more than half the annual rainfall Canterbury normally experiences.

6.23am: Selwyn District Mayor Sam Broughton told Breakfast the Selwyn River / Waikirikiri "still hasn't reached its peak and is expected to break its banks just east of State Highway 1 today". He said river levels further up the country "are beginning to drop off their peaks". 

Broughton said it takes 10 to 12 hours for water levels to travel across to the Selwyn district "so although it may not be raining right now, it doesn't mean more water's not on its way".

More rain and wind is expected in the region today.

6.19am:  Thousands were on standby to be evacuated in Ashburton.

The biggest risk to the Waimakariri remains the high level of the Ashley River at the potential for it to top over the stop banks, the Waimakariri District Council said in an update this morning.

The river risk led to two areas being evacuated late last night and early this morning by emergency services.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand crews evacuated approximately 113 properties in the Oxford and Mount Thomas Road area near the Ashley River.

A further 133 properties were evacuated in the Eyre River area were evacuated by Fire and Emergency New Zealand and police.

Eyre River is showing some signs of slowly dropping and it’s hoped than an inspection at daylight will give enough certainty to allow residents to return safely to their homes in the morning.

A regional state of emergency has been declared across the whole of Canterbury.

What you need to know:

- A red alert warning was issued for Canterbury south of Amberly on Saturday - only the second ever such warning issued by MetService — after heavy rain battered the region
-The red warning continues for Canterbury until 11am tomorrow with severe, heavy rain and severe gales predicted
- Canterbury residents this morning woke to an ongoing state of emergency this morning
- Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has authorised a region-wide Civil Defence emergency
- Fernside residents between Mt Thomas Road, Oxford Road and Merton Road were last night told to evacuate immediately
- Hundreds were forced to evacuate in Waimakariri last night amid concerns over the high levels of the Ashley River. The District Council has alerted residents in three areas – Waikuku, the Southbrook area and east of Ashley Village - to be prepared to evacuate if needed
- Severe gales of up to 120km/hr are also expected for large parts of the South Island through to 3pm tomorrow in some areas
- Fire and Emergency New Zealand assisted police with a small number of water rescues overnight after becoming caught in flood waters
- Firefighters had to assist with 20 other weather-related incidents such as leaking homes and downed trees

Breakfast host John Campbell has flown down to Ashburton. You can watch the live feed here