State of emergency declared as Coast braces for more rain
A local State of Emergency has been declared for Westland, and State Highway 6 between Hokitika and Haast is now closed.
Travellers have until 6pm tonight to leave the road and are advised to head north towards Hokitika and Greymouth.
Police are now on the road actively directing travellers to safety.
West Coast Emergency Management Group Controller Te Aroha Cook says the safety of people in the region has to be top of mind, and the best way to keep everyone safe during this period is to keep them off the roads.
“Our main priority is to ensure people are safe. By declaring the emergency now and getting people off the roads in the daylight, we are greatly reducing the risk of danger to our locals, our tourists and our emergency service teams.
“We know there is an increased risk of accidents and issues in the dark. With rivers at risk of breaching and the chance of slips increasing in this weather, we need to act now.”
Locals have been advised to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Motel and hotel patrons must stay in place and anyone camping near waterways need to immediately pack up and move to the nearest township for safe and secure accommodation.
“All our emergency service partners and our local communities are behind us in making this decision. People have until 6pm to clear the roads – after that time, Police will be actively enforcing the road closure. Emergency Management staff and volunteers will be providing assistance as necessary,” Ms Cook says.
The heaviest rain to hit Westland is now expected to arrive on Friday evening.
Officials are trying to work out whether to evacuate homes before dark as a precaution.
A heavy rain red warning is in place for the region, until Saturday morning, with 500 to 700 mm of rain expected to accumulate about the ranges, and 100 to 200 mm about the coast.
The worst of it is expected between 10pm Friday and 6am Saturday.
Anyone requiring emergency management assistance can contact their local Civil Defence centre. If an emergency, people should call 111.
Main image (RNZ/Tess Brunton): Franz Josef township, Friday, January 19, 2024.