Rivers burst banks in heavy rain
Sun, 15 Jul 2012 6:00p.m.
By Krissy Moreau
Severe flooding and slips have caused havoc today as heavy rain belted parts of the South Island.
The town of Westport was cut off, while there was minor flooding in Murchison, Nelson, Marlborough and Golden Bay.
It has been around five years since Westport residents have seen their town submerged in as much water as today.
“My mother’s house was under water,” says Westport resident Diana Menzies. “[The water had] gone through her garage and her section, just not the house.”
For some, it's a first.
“We've been in the area for seven years, and this is certainly the most water I've seen coming down through the Buller [River],” says Westport local Rob Murray.
A slip and heavy flooding closed State Highways Six and 67 in and out of the town, cutting Westport off completely.
“Buller has been isolated from the rest of New Zealand,” says Craig Scanlon of Buller District Council Civil Defence. “The west coast road was closed, Buller Gorge was shut off as well as the road to Merchinson and Reefton, so the damage was reasonably widespread.”
But waterlogged streets did nothing to dampen the spirits of the local children, who were out playing in the water.
Civil Defence is keeping a close eye on the Buller River, which runs alongside Westport. It peaked last night at 11.4m – just 40cm below its highest ever recorded peak in 1970.
“So it wasn't far away from breaking a record – a record we didn't really want to break,” says Mr Scanlon.
Further north, in Nelson, the Maitai River burst its banks, spewing out onto surrounding streets.
Locals rescued motorists in Pelorus, but their car was left submerged in the gushing waters.
More soggy soil added to a slip that was left over from flooding earlier this year.
Between 300mm and 450mm of rain has fallen in the north and west coast of the South Island in just two days.
While the heavy rainfall and river levels there are easing, the MetService says this cold front is now on its way to Taranaki and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
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