A marae and around 50 houses have been flooded in the Hastings settlement of Omahu.
Joe Te Rito, who lives in Auckland, has a house in the small settlement and was sent an image from whānau showing the marae and the whole surrounding area inundated from floodwaters breaching the banks of the Ngaruroro River.
“I’ve got a house there and it’s probably underwater but I can’t see it in that photo. But the marae is under water and the whole papakainga. I’ve just got the photo through family, through family, through family. It’s taken from on top of Puketapu-Fernhill looking down on our community. That’s the Ngaruroro River right at the front of the photo. It’s flowed over the stopbank but it’s also come from further upstream. On the left of that photo goes up to Taihape. That photo is facing north from the hill. I think it’s come over further up as well as breaching the banks at Omahu. I think that was taken at about 4pm this afternoon (Tuesday).”
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“I’m just freaking out because I’ve got two cousins there who I spoke to this morning. They were staying put. I’m just hoping that they evacuated with all the other people. I rang to my cousins about 8am because I’ve got a house there and they’re living in it. Someone else had left and fled with her bag and texted me and said the water is already going over the bridge. So I rang my cousin who was at the house and they were staying put. They’re two women in their 50s and one had an operation a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how they would have got out because they couldn’t go the Taradale way because that’s all washed out.”
He’s hoping everyone got out okay.
“Presumably they got picked up by the rescue people because other people got picked up. We’re just trying to locate where the heck they are. All the cellphone coverage is out. But it’s quite tragic, our school, our marae, our cemetery, our whole community is underwater. And I’m sitting safely here in Auckland.”
“There would be a good 30 houses around in that part. In the wider Omahu there’s probably about 40 or 50.”
After speaking on the phone, Te Rito texted that his cousins had been found.
He says the last time he has seen anything similar in that area was Cyclone Bola in the 1980s.
“The Ngaruroro has high stopbanks and the last time I saw it top to top was 1988 during Cyclone Bola. It was really freaky because I could hear things tumbling down.”