Students evacuated amid flood fears

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Students living in some low-rise flats in north Dunedin near Water of Leith were evacuated last night as floodwaters threatened properties.

Campus Watch staff knocked on the door of around 35 affected properties between Montgomery Ave and central Leith St late yesterday afternoon to warn residents of possible flooding.

A spokeswoman for Dunedin City Council said students were asked to consider leaving their flats if they had somewhere else to go, and those who chose to stay were asked to pack and carry be prepared to move as soon as possible.

At 7 p.m., campus staff returned to the properties and evacuated the tenants.

Aimie Clark (21), a resident of Leith St, Christchurch, said she and her housemates did not leave on first request, believing they would be safe as long as water did not come through their back fence.

But they were scared when told the evacuation was no longer voluntary, she said.

”It’s half and half, a bit scary and an adventure at the same time.”

She took a bag containing her passport, a laptop and other electronics, as well as a change of clothes, and planned to sleep at a friend’s house.

Blacks Road Grocer was inundated with around 15cm of flood water in the North East Valley yesterday and was too damaged to open today.

Shop owner Christopher Wilson thought it was caused by roadworks further up the street.

As a precaution, several patients were evacuated from Otago Community Hospice, North Rd, to Mercy Hospital last night.

The City Council had organized an evacuation center in Dunedin North Intermediate and alternative accommodation options were also available.

Flooding was also common in Mosgiel and south of Dunedin, and the New Zealand Army Council and Reserves set up sandbag stations in these areas for residents to collect.

In Maheno, flooding issues forced the Maheno school to close early yesterday.

Principal Stella Macrae said she notified parents earlier in the day of the situation and all 64 students were picked up at 2.15pm.

A post would be posted on the school’s Facebook page at 7.30am today letting people know if the school was open.

Emergency Management Otago urged people to stay alert to water levels in their area overnight, especially in areas most at risk of flooding, as heavy rains continued across Otago.

The slow moving weather front moved south over the South Island yesterday and is expected to continue until late this morning when the rain is expected to begin to subside.

An EMO spokeswoman said vulnerable areas included parts of South Dunedin (such as Bathgate Park), Leith St, Lindsay Creek (near Otago Hospice at North Rd), Mosgiel (near Silver Stream weir at Gordon Rd), Henley township, Milton and State Highway1 to Waikouaiti.

Late last night Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Otago System Manager Graeme Hall said State Highway 1 was likely to close overnight north of Maheno on the Kakanui River and north of Hampden in Big Kuri Creek, due to rising flood waters.

“No detours are available, drivers may have to reschedule their trip,” Mr Hall said.

”The flooding that caused these two closures is expected to continue overnight until at least 9am. [today].”

He said the Waikouaiti River and the Shag/Waihemo River were also rising and there was a risk of flooding through SH1 and SH85, respectively.

Those traveling on SH1 north from Dunedin to Waitati have been advised to take “extreme caution” due to uneven surfaces and surface flooding.

The highway leading to Port Chalmers (SH88) was also flooded in several places.

Near Milton, the intersection of Back Rd and Springfield Rd was also badly affected by flooding.

Many roads around Dunedin itself were closed due to flooding, including McGrath Rd (at the Waikouaiti River Bridge), Surrey St (between Hillside Rd and Ruskin Tce), Ravensburn St (Woodside), Old Brighton Rd ( between Walton Park Ave and McMaster Rd), Waitati Valley Rd, Miller Rd (at the ford of Waitati River), Southdale Rd (at the Tautuku Fishing Club), Gladfield Rd (at the ford of Silverstream), Silverstream Valley Rd (at the ford of Silverstream) and Flagstaff-Whare Flat Rd, and Portobello Rd (between Marne St and Vauxhall Yacht Club) were closed due to a rockfall hazard.

Engineering staff from Otago County Council were positioned on vulnerable rivers and streams overnight, while emergency services, rescue agencies and staff from Clutha District Councils, District from Waitaki and Dunedin have been monitoring the situation closely and were ready to act as events unfolded.

Emergency Management Otago Group Comptroller Matt Alley asked residents to continue to observe boil or conserve water advisories and ensure their household plans, emergency supplies including l stored water and getaway kits were prepared.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely across Otago and stand ready to escalate if necessary,” he said.

In Canterbury, schools closed, businesses were flooded and dozens of roads closed around Christchurch as heavy rain hit the area.

More than 70mm of rain fell in the 24 hours through yesterday afternoon, amid the city’s wettest July on record.

Some residents said it was the worst flooding in a decade.

The floods have also forced students at Christchurch Girls’ High School to study from home.

Principal Christine O’Neill said it was the first time anyone remembered the school being closed by floodwaters. — Additional reporting Rebecca Ryan

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