Family trapped on roof after torrential rain airlifted to safety

Two adults and their 4-year-old grandchild were stranded on the roof of their Tolaga Bay home for hours after overnight flooding.

Photo: 123RF

Tairawhiti Civil Defence controller John Clarke said the family had been on the roof since 4am.

“So that‘s not a very pleasant experience particularly when there‘s water through their house and they had lost their woolshed and their cars had been washed away,” he said.

“They were rescued about 8am and taken to family, the kid is being assessed for possible hypothermia but they are doing OK.

“They have been on the roof for four hours and were very wet and cold. The young girl has been checked by paramedics and was all clear. The family is enjoying having a shower and relaxing after what would have been a traumatic time.”

The family said the experience was traumatic, their granddaughter said it was a “cool adventure” but all are extremely grateful to be alive.

The floodwaters had swept away the woolshed, a work truck, a car, a digger, tractors and trailers.

The grandmother said water had flooded the home and reached a metre from the ceiling.

Mr Clarke said the granddaughter had been checked by paramedics for possibly hypothermia, but was given the all clear.

Mr Clarke said at least two other homes were flooded – a family of seven including an elderly couple.

“They‘re in their homes with flooding all around them so we‘ve got helicopters up there assessing that but we very well may have to evacuate them as well.

“There‘s also about 20-odd people at the Mangatuna marae and we‘re just watching that too.”

Mr Clarke said rivers in the Tolaga Bay area had risen rapidly since midnight and were close to their peak but had now stabilised.

“Tolaga Bay and the area inland from there we‘ve had a couple of hundred millimetres of rain in the last 24 hours at the top end of Mangatuna River.”

Road closures have shut Tolaga bay residents off from Gisborne.

“The State Highway between Gisborne and Tolaga Bay is closed and so is the road north of Tolaga Bay so there is no road access.”

He said rain was expected to ease in Tolaga Bay but would be heavy over parts of Gisborne.

About 20 residents in the area had self-evacuated from Whangara and surrounding areas.

State Highway 2 at Mangatuna Road north of Tolaga Bay has been closed and at Whangara, where water has reached the bottom of the Waiomoko Bridge.

Civil Defence would remain on standby.

Motorists are advised to stay home unless travel is essential. Those that do need to leave are urged to check road information first.

Meanwhile, in Kaiti sewage was being discharged to cope with a stormwater overflow.

The emergency wastewater valves on the Gladstone Bridge were opened at 8am.

The Gisborne District Council said the discharge was diluted but could be a risk to human health.

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