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Wild weather: Homes in Buller & Tasman District evacuated

MetService has issued a strong wind warning for the entire North Island until 8pm tonight.

Flood risk in the Buller and Inangahua Rivers has triggered warnings for people to evacuate to higher land. Video / Supplied

Heavy rain has forced some residents in the South Island's Tasman District from their homes - while hundreds of people in Buller were also evacuated.

In Wellington, roofs were blown off houses as wild weather continued.

The weather bomb that hit the South Island's West Coast this weekend - a one-in-50-year storm - closed all roads into the Buller, prompted MetService to issue a rare "red warning" and regional emergency management to declare a state of emergency.

And the country's weather authority has issued a spate of weather warnings for the country - including a North Island-wide strong wind warning.

Tasman District Council spokesman Chris Choat said staff were knocking on doors at 3 or 4am asking people to leave their homes.

He said a small number of houses at Brooklyn, near the Riwaka River, were evacuated as a precaution.

Buller mayor Jamie Cleine said the river had swollen to an "extremely high" 11.3 metres but hadn't burst its banks.

A flooded Wingham Rugby Park in Coal Creek, north of Greymouth. Photo / George Heard
A flooded Wingham Rugby Park in Coal Creek, north of Greymouth. Photo / George Heard

"[It's] at least a 50-year flood event," he said.

RED WARNING still active for Buller and N Westland, until 8pm Sat eve. 400mm in 24hrs already recorded in the ranges there, still raining. Orange Warnings Nelson and Marlborough Ranges, Southern Westland & Canterbury Headwaters. Details: https://t.co/NQBonCMXTZ ^RK pic.twitter.com/Aeu6Ilmk6j

— MetService (@MetService) July 16, 2021

There were nerves around the 3.30am high tide with a tidal surge predicted - but both had passed without significant impact, Cleine said.

Emergency response personnel were waiting until daylight to get a better idea of the situation - including when the currently closed roads into the region could be reopened.

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State Highway 6 from Westport to Rapahoe and SH73 from Arthurs Pass to Jacksons were both closed due to slips.

The raging Inangahua River in the Buller District. Photo / Supplied
The raging Inangahua River in the Buller District. Photo / Supplied

SH7 from Ikamatua to Stillwater is closed due to flooding, while flooding and multiple slips have closed SH65 from O'Sullivans Bridge to Shenandoah, and SH60 from Collingwood to Riwaka.

NZTA live traffic map at https://t.co/I0ozNXjF55 shows current road closures. Stay safe out there. ^RK pic.twitter.com/Clt5yaa5np

— MetService (@MetService) July 16, 2021

In Wellington, Fire and Emergency had 28 weather-related calls overnight and responded to 19.

Shift manager Belinda Beets said many of them involved roofs being blown off.

A large section of a roof came off a house in Newtown. Roofing iron and a sign also came loose elsewhere in that suburb.

Steel was hanging from a roof on an apartment block on Taranaki St in the CBD, and doors were blown out in Ngaio.

Workers try to clear a slip on State Highway 73 at Rocky Creek between Otira and Jacksons. Photo / NZTA
Workers try to clear a slip on State Highway 73 at Rocky Creek between Otira and Jacksons. Photo / NZTA

More than 700 people in Buller were evacuated from low-lying areas to four evacuation centres in the district.

Evacuated residents were this morning asked to "stay away" from their homes, as the risk of moving floodwaters remained.

West Coast Emergency Management this morning said there was still a large amount of water in the ranges that needed to make its way down the Buller River.

"We know you are keen to get home. We ask people to stay away from their homes while the risk remains. We will let you know when it is safe to return home."

Last night the Army deployed 14 personnel and seven vehicles from Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury to assist with evacuations following flooding.

When Cleine visited the centres this morning, people were sitting around playing cards - waiting for more information on the situation.

Traffic backs up on State Highway 73 as slips caused by heavy rain closes the road. Photo / George Heard
Traffic backs up on State Highway 73 as slips caused by heavy rain closes the road. Photo / George Heard

"We're just reinforcing that message that even though we're really happy with how things are going, we just need another couple of hours to make sure the river has settled down."

In Westport, Fire and Emergency received 12 calls about trees that had blown down.

Shift manager Lyn Crosson said fire crews didn't attend some of those because the council attended instead.

Wild weather on the Blaketown Tiphead, Greymouth. Photo / St John
Wild weather on the Blaketown Tiphead, Greymouth. Photo / St John
Weather warnings across the country

MetService has issued a strong wind watch from the Far North to the capital city - in effect until 8pm tonight.

North Islanders were being warned wind strengths could approach severe gale in exposed places.

Up to 200mm of rain could accumulate about Mt Taranaki and up to 120mm about the Tongariro National Park.

Warm front currently hosing the upper S Island accelerates across the N Island later today. Short period Orange Warnings for heavy rain in place for Tararuas, Taranaki to Tongariro & Eastern Bay of Plenty with Gisborne Ranges, & Watch for Wellington. https://t.co/NQBonD4ziz ^RK pic.twitter.com/7FrCqzOVQv

— MetService (@MetService) July 16, 2021

Taihape and inland Whanganui are in for a windy Saturday with north to northwest winds expected to be severe in exposed places, with gusts of up to 120km/h.

It is a similar story on the other side of the North Island, with a heavy rain warning in place from 1pm to 10pm on the Bay of Plenty, east of Whakatāne and the ranges of Gisborne.

Heavy rain warnings are also in place for the Tararua Ranges until 6pm in Wellington - and until 3pm in Marlborough.

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