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Families search for news on isolated East Coast farmers

Feb 16, 2023

As Cyclone Gabrielle moves away from New Zealand, thousands on the East Coast are left dealing with the aftermath that is causing anguish and logistical problems.

Isolated communities without power or cell phone towers are stuck with no form of communication, leaving their friends and family worried.

However late Wednesday, Ed Train in Hawke's Bay was relieved to get a call from his family who are inaccessible on their Puketapu farm.

"My mum, my two younger brothers and my grandma who lives right next door. I just contacted them now since Monday, thanks to their neighbour who had a generator and Wi-Fi.

"They are doing okay and I'm just happy that they're safe."

Train was keen to help clear slips and repair fences back on his family's farm, but options to get there were limited.

"All the bridges have been taken out and they are fully isolated. The only way to get there would be by helicopter."

Humphrey Bailey from Wairoa still had no idea how his farm, staff and stock were doing.

Last week, he took his daughter down to Christchurch to start university but the extreme weather kicked in, cancelling all flights north.

"My flights were turned back on Monday, Tuesday and then Wednesday to Napier," Bailey said.

"I hope to be able to fly on Thursday but the bridges to Wairoa are down, so it's unlikely I will get back there very easily."

Bailey said he had been offered a seat on a small plane from Napier to Wairoa but in the meantime the state of his farm remained a mystery.

"I couldn't get any phone calls through to anyone. I'm expecting a large amount of flooding and slipping no doubt. But really I'm so unsure."

Meanwhile for thousands of people in Hawke's Bay, the extent of the damage was starting to sink in.

John Evans has a low-lying orchard in Twyford and compared watching the water rise with watching a really bad movie.

"We started to see water heading to us and going uphill literally - and coming at quite a pace and quite a volume," Evans said.

"The immediate focus was to get people out and up to higher ground."

It was scary and there was no power or phone communication, Evans said.

He has a team of Pacific RSE workers on his orchard and said everyone made it to safety.

"We have some guys from Samoa, Fiji and the Solomons working for us and living on site, so we all evacuated and now everyone's cleaning up."

Despite the flooding, mud and debris trail that was in his house and orchard, Evans said his family was doing well and the situation was a lot worse for many other people in the region.


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