Newspaper Article 2007 – Floods keep staff busy

Floods keep staff busy

Army brought in to evacuate schools as heavy rain puts hillside settlement under water

Emergency services faced a wild day yesterday as relentless rain blocked drains, flooded rivers and plunged streets under water.

Firefighters, police and the army called in extra resources to boost the response to the flooding.

Hastings senior station officer Rob Karaitiana said calls to the fire station were steady and the eight on-duty fire fighters were boosted to 30.

Firefighters helped to move cars out of waters and closed roads to block traffic moving down water-logged streets.

One truck and command post were ferried out to Maraekakaho to help with the evacuation of the school.

Mr Karaitiana said the Red Cross, Salvation Army caravan, and rural brigades helped keep the children safe, fed, and warm.

“There was a real community spirit, the community was looking after their own out there (Maraekakaho), and for the kids it was quite an adventure,” he said.

Firefighters then visited homes in Maraekakaho to tally who was staying put and who had evacuated.

Overnight as the rain eased, the calls slowed, but as the downpours returned they were ready for “just another day at the fire house”, Mr Karaitiana said.

Hastings Senior Sergeant Ross Smith said police had a “pretty busy day” as they followed the weather to Flaxmere, Puketitiri and Maraekakaho.

“We did call in extra staff and take staff off other duties to assist us with the flooding problems,” he said.

The pelting rain caused havoc on the roads as police were called to eight minor accidents.

Mr Smith said police would be keeping an eye on the weather and had officers on stand-by.

He had advice for the public: “The weather is still terrible out there. Just drive to the conditions, don’t be in a rush, and be patient if you are held up by the surface flooding.”

Staff Sergeant Greg Molloy said the army was on stand-by to help with the civil emergency call-outs.

Yesterday, soldiers used one unimog to evacuate school children at Puketapu School, and two unimogs whisked school children from the flooding at Maraekakaho School.

Eleven soldiers, two unimogs and one pinzgauer arrived from Linton last night.

Army does battle with forces of nature


Army unimogs were used to evacuate 240 Puketapu School pupils yesterday after the deluge turned the school grounds into a lake and cut access off as stormwater drains boiled up like geysers.

But it was an exciting adventure for the youngsters who were smiling and waving out from the high trucks.

Tipeni Carston (11) said it was cool. “It was dark inside and everyone was getting excited,” he beamed.

While Hamish Sinton (9) was so impressed with the unimog and helpful soldiers he’s now thinking about an Army career. “I got all wet, water was dripping on me in the truck.”

Teacher Scott Mogey said flooded drains and sewerage pipes posed a health risk. “With the sheer volume of water run off from the hills the drains filled and everything popped.

“It’s too risky with children around” he said. “But they think it’s fantastic.”

A fast running river about 30 metres wide cut access to the school while running through the sports field, pooling three metres deep in places however the water level quickly subsided after two hours.

Around neighbouring Poraiti farm paddocks were completely submerged with water lapping at stock yard fence tops.

For the children at Maraekakaho School it was a similar adventure; great streams of water where grass and pavement was a few hours earlier, and a ride in an army unimog.

But for their teachers and parents the hour or so it took to get their young charges to safety was harrowing. The speed at which floodwaters rose took school staff by surprise.

“At 9.30 it was not too bad,” one staff member said.

“But at 10 I heard the roads were flooding. We called the police and they advised us to close the school.”

The police, having received reports on the seriousness of the rising waters, called for the army to lend a hand and a high-axle Unimog truck was sent to pick the children up.

By 11am half the 100 or so pupils had been taken to a woolshed on higher ground where their parents could pick them up.

When a nearby hillside showed signs of slips developing day pupils at Hukarere College at Eskdale were sent home early yesterday.

Boarders were move to a safer part of the facility and emergency services kept an eye on the slip.

Weather claims lambs


Cruel weather has taken its toll on livestock with vulnerable lambs dying.

Puketapu farmer Philip Alexander said he’s lost about 80 lambs while only half way through his first lambing phase.

“Most of the casualties have been the twins because of the water over the last 36 hours,” he said.

The dismayed farmer of 420ha said “it’s a warm rain but the torrential four hours yesterday would have killed them.”

Loses [Losses] were minimised. “We moved ewes to higher ground so luckily we’ve got our timing right, if we had left it any later we would not have been able to get them out.”

Another casualty from the flooding was Mr Alexander’s motorbike.

“We had an inch an hour for three hours yesterday, I drowned the motor bike trying to get back out of a paddock.

“The worst thing about it, aside from the financial cost is the absolute cruelty of the weather,” said Mrs Alexander as she watched a ewe mourn over her dead lambs.

Rain may also impact on grass availability.

“The farm is not too bad (for grass), we sacrificed a couple of paddocks to allow the rest of the paddocks to recover but we’ve lost about 120 acres of new grass, at this stage it’s a metre under water and we’ll know in about 10 days if it will recover or if we lose it.

“We maybe faced with selling the yearling heifers and bulls,” Mrs Alexander said.

Photo captions –

OVERFLOW: A torrent cut off Puketapu School and overflowed drains, above, right and below.

BIG RIDE: A Unimog is used by military and police personnel to evacuate pupils from Puketapu School during heavy rain and massive flooding at Puketapu.

CASUALTIES: Farmer Philip Alexander takes stock


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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

18 July 2007

Creator / Author

  • Steven McNicholl
  • Helen Stirling


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Philip Alexander
  • Tipeni Carston
  • Rob Karaitiana
  • Scott Mogey
  • Staff Sergeant Greg Molloy
  • Hamish Sinton
  • Senior Sergeant Ross Smith

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