More than 30 stranded alpacas flown to safety amid 'terrifying' Canterbury floods

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

More than 30 alpacas have been flown to safety after they became stranded on a small island of land when major flooding busted Ashley River's banks on Sunday.

Okuku animal owner Anne Rogers today described her farm as "a disaster zone" after heavy rain caused one in 100 year flooding to the Canterbury region this week.

"The last couple of days has been a living nightmare of true proportions," she said.

The wild weather has begun easing, but an emotional Rogers told 1 NEWS shelters and fencing on her her farm had been destroyed.

"We were getting the alpacas to high ground but it just broke through," she said, describing the moment the river broke its banks.

"It was just so sudden. We've survived big floods in the Ashley but this broke the banks.

"The whole thing just unfolded like a tsunami really ... it was terrifying."

She's considering herself lucky, though, adding that at least her animals were able to be saved.

Footage of a dramatic rescue just before midday Sunday shows her 34 female alpacas brought to safety by chopper, being carried in slings.

The rescue operation took around three hours to complete and involved efforts of around 30 people, mostly locals offering their help, some who were in chest deep water trying to save the animals.

"It was pretty full on, it was amazing," Rogers, who has owned alpacas for 20 years, said.

"We couldn't not save them, I don't care if they're worth $5 or not, they were animals that needed saving, that's the main thing."

Way To Go Heliservices pilots were involved in the windy rescue.

In a statement, the business said, "during critical times, Way To Go Heliservices has provided support for stranded animals, water or medication carriage, property inspections and transportation across cut off areas".

"Unfortunately North Canterbury has experienced several natural disasters over the past 12 years so for those in need whether it be essential Ground Crew or Helicopter services, Way To Go Heliservices is readily able to provide aid in times of natural disaster."

Rogers said she's yet to find out how much the rescue operation cost.

"We're just trying to get our heads around it and work out a plan, we're quite traumatised," she said.

In the meantime, the alpacas - of which five were babies, between four and five-months-old, and the rest were adults up to 16-years-old - have been taken to Shirley Grant's farm in Summerhill. Grant is a well-known in the alpaca community and organised the rescue operation.

"Shirley looked after them and saved their lives," Rogers said.

"They would've died by the end of the day. They were so cold and wet and already hypothermic. They were stressed and in shock with no feed."

When asked how the alpacas were doing, Rogers tearfully said they were "doing okay", adding that they were cold, hungry and in shock following the ordeal, and some were being treated with antibiotics after being checked over by a vet.

"My heart goes out there to the farmers not as lucky as us."