Canterbury flooding: Ten State Highways remain closed as evacuations continue

Roads remain closed and evacuations are continuing for some residents as emergency services and authorities in Canterbury continue to deal with the aftermath of the deluge.

Metservice meteorologist Angus Hines said rain was easing across Canterbury, but caution was still required around the region’s swollen rivers and waterways.

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“We’ve got that [heavy rain] warning in place, 7pm is still the cut-off time, when it’s expected to lift.

“After that, things should be at least in terms of local rainfall noticeably decreased, however, the rivers of course will still be running high and they can stay high even after the local rainfall finished.

“There will be potential for further issues surrounding those high, swollen rivers.”

Residents in low-lying areas of The Pines Beach were still being evacuated after the Waimakariri District Council issued an “evacuate now” notice on its social media pages this morning.

Emergency services were knocking on residents’ doors this afternoon, the district council said in a 4pm update.

Residents in other parts of Canterbury have been warned to prepare for an evacuation should it be needed.

The wet weather has closed many State Highways across the region while SH1 near Greta Valley near Scargill Valley Rd has been closed due to a serious crash.

The closed State Highways include SH1 Burnham to Dunsandel, SH1 Temuka between Arowhenua Rd and Huirapa St, SH1 Hinds River Bridge between Delamaine St and Lynnford Rd , SH73 Springfield to Castle Hill, SH75 is now closed from Barrys Bay to Birdlings Flat, SH77 Darfield to Mount Hutt , SH77 Rakaia Gorge to Methven, SH77 Glentunnel to Windwhistle and SH79 Fairlie to Rangitata.

Heavy rain warnings extended

The heavy rain warning that started on Friday afternoon and was expected to be lifted at 11am today has now been extended over the region.

In Canterbury between Amberley and Geraldine, the warning is in place until 7pm today, MetService said.

The main focus of heavy rain would be north of the Rakaia River and about the inland hills and ranges.

Earlier today, at the Waimakariri Gorge, a car was spotted down a nearby bank.

A number of fire trucks arrived at the scene and firefighters worked to confirm whether or not someone was inside the vehicle.

Police officer Mitchel Alatalo said the vehicle was stolen overnight.

He said they have now checked the vehicle which had nobody inside.

A high ropes expert was deployed about 40m down the bank to assess the car.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzie District Council has warned there could be livestock on the loose as river levels fall.

It said fencing may have been washed away, meaning stock may not be contained, and wander onto roads.

The council said farmers will be working to address this.

It’s also warned debris and gravel in the rivers could cause further damage to bridges.

The ongoing situation came as residents in Canterbury woke up to a region-wide state of emergency today after the weekend’s torrential rain caused rivers to burst their banks and forced mass evacuations.

The weather event has been labelled a one-in-100-year event and resulted in a rare red warning being issued by MetService late last week – only the second time such a warning has been put out by the authority.

Heavy rain flooded the region yesterday, closing roads, sparking dramatic helicopter rescues and sending Civil Defence scrambling to set up emergency welfare shelters.

Hundreds of Waimakariri residents were ordered to immediately evacuate their homes last night with stopbanks on two flooded rivers at risk of failing or expected to give way.

Eight residents were evacuated last night from Geraldine retirement village, and six people tending stock were airlifted to safety yesterday afternoon after being trapped by rising floodwaters at Okuku in North Canterbury.

Emergency services had been bracing for the extreme weather, with forecasters predicting “red alert” rain conditions since Friday.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said last night their southern communication centre had dealt with around 100 flood-related callouts in the past 12 hours.

“That includes people with water coming into their homes and people needing to be rescued from floodwater, as well as things like power lines brought down by trees.”

St John Canterbury district operations manager Curt Ward said staff had established an emergency operations centre in Christchurch and sent additional resources and specialist team members to the area to assist.

A state of emergency for the Ashburton District has been declared for seven days.

A state of emergency had been also been declared in Timaru at 11.42am, said Mayor Nigel Bowen.

A local Civil Defence emergency was also declared by Selwyn District Council at 2pm.

“With a declaration in place we will be better placed to manage road closures which are expected across the district throughout today, especially if the state highway network is affected,” Selwyn Civil Defence controller Douglas Marshall said.

“We really do urge people to stay off the roads. Travel is likely to be disrupted for some time, and we do not want to see travellers becoming trapped.”

Early on Sunday afternoon around 70 residents of Selwyn Huts were asked to “evacuate now” as the rising Selwyn River was expected to cut off access to the settlement.

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