Slips have isolated the West Auckland beach villages of Piha and Karekare – with houses destroyed and flooding making evacuations near impossible.
More than 200mm of rain fell in 24 hours, collapsing a 100-metre stretch of a cliff at North Piha on Monday night.
Nearby Karekare was also hit hard with multiple slips, flooding and landslides.
One Karekare beach house didn’t stand a chance when, without warning, the hillside collapsed on top of it.
“We have had things out here before but nothing like this. The damage is unbelievable,” neighbour Wayde Baxter said.
The owners returned to their near century-old home this morning to assess the devastation and retrieve some personal items, including a precious violin and stained glass window. Incredibly both were still intact.
But so much, too much, was ruined. The owners were devastated and traumatised.
Their neighbours were quick to pitch in and help.
“Yeah we get the tools out and start chopping trees to get things moving, get some people here, get some people out of here,” Baxter said. “It’s what you do I think, get in and help, they would do the same for us, especially people who have lost everything.”
For this small beachside community, it’s not over yet, not even close.
“I think five houses have come down or are in the process with the potential for another possible five if things carry on this way,” Baxter said.
Nearby Piha suffered a similar fate. Hit hard by multiple slips and flooding.
Home after home was destroyed or badly damaged, including Geoff Creighton’s beach house.
Getting in or out of the area is proving impossible as the road to West Auckland beaches is broken and blocked.
It’s a tough job for emergency services and it was a tough night for Newshub cameraman Tim Raethel who was trapped between two slips.
“[I] got down there and was told by the fire service it wasn’t safe, that’s fine, I went back the hill – got 200 metres up the hill, a little bit of a slip coming across the road, an almighty crack and then just crash through the bush and then a tonne of dirt,” Raethel said. “It’s not something I want to go through again.”
Those who did manage to escape in the middle of the night fled to the Trust Arena in Henderson.
“We ended up having to grab a bag and go through a fence, through the neighbour’s property to try and even get down the road in some pretty horrific weather,” one evacuee said.
Among the volunteers to greet the evacuees were former All Blacks, Sir Michael Jones and Eroni Clark.
“So when they walk through the door they get that sense of love straight away. It’s important we want them to feel as comfortable as possible,” Clark said.
“It’s just to know they have a safe place, that scaffolding around them, just to kickstart them and get them back on their feet,” Sir Michael said.
For many residents that could be some time – weeks, probably months.
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