KEY POINTS:

  • State of emergency declared for entire Canterbury region after heavy rain and flooding.
  • Deluge follows rare 'red warning' from authorities only given for extreme weather events.
  • State of emergency had earlier been declared in Timaru District, Ashburton and Selwyn.
  • "Half of Ashburton" may have to evacuate if river levels keep rising, mayor says.
  • Ashburton river a major concern, mayor Neil Brown says.
  • Up to 4000 residents will need to be evacuated if river's stopbanks break.
  • Next 24 hours critical, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi says.
  • Tonight's high tide in Christchurch is expected at 8pm.
  • MetService says more bad weather forecast to hit the already drenched Canterbury region.

A state of emergency has now been declared for the entire Canterbury region as heavy rain continues to fall.

Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Neville Reilly confirmed the decision, saying other local authorities had been considering declaring states of emergency.

“We’ve had three local authorites declare (Timaru District, Ashburton and Selwyn) because they needed to access power to evacuate people if necessary.”

Evacuations were in force around the Ashburton area, where about 20 households had self evacuated.

People around the Selwyn Huts had evacuated and other areas around Canterbury may have to evacuate tonight depending on what happened with the rain and river levels.

Those areas were around Ashburton, northern Rangiora, Temuka and Geraldine.

“Everything is holding reasonably well but just can’t afford to take chances. There’s a lot of contingency planning going on so that if something untowards should happen we are in a position to get people out and give them somewhere to go.”

Heavy rain is forecast utill at least 6am tomorrow.

“Really we’re just holding our breath overnight,” Reilly said.

Don’t travel tonight unless you really have to. Roads are closed around the region and motorist could get stuck.

“Don’t wait to be told to evacuate. Just make arrangements and leave.”

Ashburton preparing for mass evacuations as river rises

Ashburton is preparing for mass evacuations as the Ashburton River rises and heavy rain continues to fall.

At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Neil Brown said up to 4000 homes will need to be evacuated if the river’s stopbanks break. Up to 1700 houses on the south side of the river are at risk and another 2200 homes on the north side, although it is unlikely both sides will burst.

Heavy rain is set to continue overnight and into Monday, so water levels are likely to rise, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi said. Updates were being prepared for parents as to whether schools would be open tomorrow.

NZTA was monitoring roads and bridges, and a number of state highways had been closed in the Canterbury Region due to flooding.

Brown said if residents were feeling unsafe in their homes they should call 111 or leave if it’s safe to do so.

“If they’re feeling unsafe they should call someone, get some advice or leave. We’ve planned for this.”

The Ashburton River is the one major concern, Brown said. Faafoi added that the next 24 hours would be critical.

Residents should stay home and “be cautious when out and about”.

A retirement village in Geraldine had to be evacuated due to flood waters, with a spokesperson confirming eight residents had been evacuated.

Brown said while some flow monitors on Ashburton River had been damaged, others were still providing information.

In the last 24 hours, the Ashburton high country had experienced heavy rain which was making its way down through the river systems, Brown said.

There was still “quiet a bit of capacity” in the river. “We need it to stop raining to let those rivers drop,” Brown said.

A welfare centre was being set up at Hakatere Marae in case it was needed.

Emergency services were prepared for the bad weather due to forecasting since Friday.

State of emergency in Timaru, Ashburton, Selwyn

A state of emergency has been declared in Timaru District, Ashburton and Selwyn.

Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen said a state of emergency had been declared as of 11.42am.

“This is to allow council and partner agencies to carry out necessary tasks in the face of surface flooding and rising rivers due to continued heavy rainfall across the district,” the Timaru District Council said in a statement this morning.

Two Civil Defence welfare centres have been set up in Geraldine at St Andrew’s Hall and the Geraldine High School library.

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

Selwyn District Council declared a Local Civil Defence Emergency at 2pm today.

“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. The best thing for people to do is avoid driving for the foreseeable future.”

Earlier this afternoon around 70 residents of Selwyn Huts were asked to evacuate as rising river levels threaten to cut off access to the settlement.

Selwyn District Council is also telling Sheffield, Waddington and Springfield residents to self-evacuate if they have concerns, as surface flooding affects significant areas of the township.

Selwyn Civil Defence was going door-to-door this afternoon requesting residents to “evacuate now” as flooding of the Selwyn River was expected to cut off access to the settlement via Days Rd.

They said a flood flow breakout above the huts and over the road was “very likely to occur in this event”.

Where to go for official updates

Remember, always call 111 if you think your life or the lives of others are in danger.

These sites contain flooding updates for Canterbury areas, including emergency notices, road closures, river flow, flooding warnings and places to get more information:

• Christchurch City Council flooding updates page
• Ashburton District Council flooding updates page
• Selwyn District Council flooding updates page
• Timaru District Council is posting updates to their main page
• The regional council for Christchurch: Environment Canterbury
• Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management page.

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