Flooding brings Christchurch to a halt (video, photos, news)


Heavy rain is continuing to cause chaos in Christchurch today as emergency services deal with flooded homes, floating cars, trapped motorists and isolated communities.

Schools and roads have been closed by flooding while more than 4000 homes and businesses remain without power.

The council says it is the worst rain storm in almost 40 years, with up to 100 houses across the city believed to be affected by flooding.

Firefighters have attended some 300 incidents in Canterbury since the southerly storm picked up yesterday morning, smashing windows, bringing down trees and power lines and lifting roofs.

Gale-force winds caused most of the damage yesterday morning, but by last night it was heavy rain causing most of the issues.

Surface flooding in the Richmond, St Albans and Mairehau areas had affected about 50 homes, while flooding had also forced the closure of a number of schools.

Shirley Boys High School said it was closed due to flooding and Linwood College said flooding had left "no way in or out of the school ground".

Police have urged drivers to take care as surface flooding had closed roads and a slip closed Dyers Pass Rd.

Southern fire communications shift manager Andrew Norris said firefighters had received about 70 calls overnight and some 300 calls in the last 24 hours.

"It's mainly confined to water damage now - we've had a lot of surface flooding and lots of leaking roofs and things like that. We've had crews from the Fire Service and Civil Defence teams out last night assisting occupants, putting tarps on roofs.

"Generally with the surface flooding there's not a lot we can do - it's just a matter of reassuring people and giving them advice."



Photos: Flooding this morning in Selwyn / Drew Chappell

 

The flooding was mainly around the Heathcote and Avon river areas, which tended to flood on a regular basis since the earthquakes.

There was also some surface flooding in Shirley as a result of drainage issues.

Some homes were protected by sandbags while firefighters helped to evacuate three houses on Hulverstone Drive in New Brighton.

"They were all red zone houses which will eventually be vacated and be demolished, but they were probably the only three that were occupied on that part of the street."

Firefighters also helped to remove several people from cars that got stuck in surface flooding overnight.

"One this morning, at about 5am, they were sitting on the roof of the car when the fire crew got there," Mr Norris said

"I don't know if it was over the wheels or up to the bonnet ... but the people probably found it necessary to sit on the roof, either so they were more visible or because they felt safer."

Christchurch City Council said it was the worst rain storm since 1975, making it a one-in-50-year event for the city.

The rainfall has been a lot heavier than forecasted, with almost 100mm falling in the past 24 hours and a further 20mm expected before the rain eases off.

Council land drainage operation manager Mike Gillooly told Radio New Zealand that firefighters and contractors had been up all night helping residents.

"The hardest-hit area at this stage is the suburbs of Richmond, St Albans and Mairehau - we're estimating that we've had probably had at least 50 houses with surface water though them in those areas, and that could continue throughout the day."

The council established a welfare centre at Mairehau High School about 8pm yesterday, but only three people had been gone there. The rest had found their own accommodation.

Power remains out for almost 4700 customers in the Christchurch area, according to the Orion website this morning.

Orion chief executive Rob Jamieson said most of the power outages were in the Banks Peninsula, but there were also isolated outages in the city and the Selwyn District.

He told Radio New Zealand many people would have to wait all day for power to be restored, as flooding and downed trees proved a challenge for crews.

Mr Jamieson said the storm was unusual because it kept on going.

"It's not as though there's been an event and now we're cleaning up - the event is continuing," he said.

"Just as we get one tree removed from a line, another one hits somewhere else so it really is a continuing battle."

Thousands of people were affected by the storm yesterday as southwest gales, gusting up to 140km/h, lifted roofs, blew out house windows and brought down trees and power lines in Canterbury.

Further north, inter-island ferries were suspended after winds whipped up 5-metre swells in the Cook Strait, with higher seas expected.

Wellington police last night advised motorists to drive with caution on coastal roads amid reports of rocks and debris being washed up near Moa Point in Wellington and on Marine Parade near Eastbourne.

A central fire communications spokesman said there had been no calls to weather-related incidents in the Wellington region overnight.

The MetService has issued alerts for severe southwest gales for the east coast from Banks Peninsula to Hawkes Bay and heavy rain for Christchurch and Southern Wairarapa.

Conditions are expected to ease this afternoon.

Christchurch school closures:

• Avonside Girls' High School - closed

• Ferndale School - closed

• Linwood College - closed

• Mairehau High School - closed

• Phillipstown School - opening at 11am

• Riccarton High School - opening at 11am

• Rudolph Steiner School - closed

• Shirley Boys High School - closed

• Shirley Intermediate - closed

• Shirley Primary School - closed

Christchurch road closures:

• Durham St North at Gloucester

• New Brighton Road between Queensbury and Avondale

• Avonside Drive between Kerrs and Wainoni

• Marine Parade at Mountbatten Street

• Ruru Road at Maces

• Dyers Road between Governors Bay and Sign of the Kiwi

• Owles Terrace

• Fitzgerald Ave bridge is submerged - avoid this route

• Hills Road between Edgeware and Shirley - extremely flooded

• Barrington Street - extremely flooded

• Slips on Tunnel Road

- NZ Herald/APNZ/Weatherwatch

- Image: Joe Morgan; NZ Herald