Napier floods: Defence Force, volunteers join to offer assistance

As Napier continues to battle a one-in-250 year storm, authorities predict the worst has passed.

At a media briefing this afternoon, Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence emergency management group controller Ian Macdonald said the forecast for this evening and into tomorrow was about 4mm per hour.

“That with the advice we’ve had from the regional council … rivers engineers, they don’t consider that to cause us an issue.

“The rivers in Hawke’s Bay are completely fine and there’s lots of room in the rivers in terms of capacity.”

Macdonald said one of the concerns was that slips might be furthered by any additional rain. There was a geotechnical engineer working on the event and if they identified anything of concern, more people might need to be evacuated from their homes.

It had been a busy morning for Napier Council and the priority was to ensure that vulnerable community members were receiving the care that they needed and were being evacuated, Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said.

“We still have some significant flooding in Maraenui and Pirimai. That’s a priority area for us,” she said.

Fire and Emergency NZ area manager Ken Cooper said they could not access Maraenui early last night.

“However, with the help of the NZ Defence Force we were able to access that late last night, early in the morning and do the assessments.”

They had two military vehicles who could access stormwater conditions. “We’ve got six army personnel working with us.”

Cooper said other significant areas for were Bluff Hill and Hospital Hill.

“We’ve had some landslips, so we have our rescue crew working alongside Napier City Council building officers. We’re doing assessments of that this afternoon.”

Cooper said the priority was risks to life.

“Last night we received over 300 fire calls to Fire and Emergency and we prioritised those to the most vulnerable in our communities. So last night Fire and Emergency assisted over 30 houses to evacuate.”

Cooper said the priority today was to go into those vulnerable in communities and to get a handle on the extent of the damage.

“Out of the 300 calls received last night we have, I know, 100 properties who have suffered from the effects of the storm.”

Last night they had 90 firefighters, urban and rural brigades, volunteers working together.

“Today has seen our urban search and rescue team deploy from Palmerston North and that is made up primarily from Wellington and the Hutt firefighters who’ve come to assist the community,” Cooper said.

Getting help

The mayor said the evacuation centre at Kennedy Park was still open today and about 30 people continued to be there today.

“It will certainly be available tonight if it is needed,” Wise said.

She said forecasts didn’t suggest another storm as bad as last night, but the community would be informed of where things were headed.

Cooper from FENZ said if “individuals do feel unsafe or they have got concerns, then call 111.”

Wise said for those in need of welfare support the number to call was 0800 422 923.

Napier MP Stuart Nash said Emergency Management Minister Kiri Allan would be arriving at 5pm.

“When the waters have cleared, we will sit down with the mayor and the council and determine what, if anything, we can do to help Napier City Council mitigate the risk of this sort of thing happening again,” Nash said.

Wise said there would be a need for some government assistance.

She said there was considerable damage to some properties which meant some community members would need to be assisted with long term accommodation.

No injuries, no boil water notice

The mayor said they did not know how bad yesterday’s storm would become.

“On Sunday the MetService was simply on a watch and we didn’t even get a warning come through about the event until midday on Monday, and then it was at its heaviest around 6pm that night.”

Wise said fortunately there were no injuries nor fatalities.

Hawke’s Bay DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Nick Jones said he was not aware of any hospitalisations associated with the rainfall but there were concerns about the transportation of people.

There was no boil water notice at this stage, and there were good levels of chlorine in the system.

“We don’t have any reason to go ahead and issue a boil water notice,” Jones said.

Jones said people should wash their hands if they had been in contact with the floodwater.

He said circumstances could change and urged people to keep an ear out for advice.