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A state of emergency has been declared in Southland and residents in parts of Gore, Mataura and Wyndham are being told to evacuate as river levels continue to rise.

Authorities are telling people in the region to avoid all unnecessary travel on roads, as flooding continues to cause issues throughout the region – causing landslides and washing away entire roads.

Meanwhile, low-lying homes in the Gore and Mataura districts will have their power disconnected this morning for public safety.

Mataura was almost completely empty by 9.15am and the bridge was closed about 9.30am.

Civil Defence Southland said residents in low-lying areas in Gore, Mataura and Wyndham should evacuate.

“The Mataura River is expected to peak with 2740 cumecs at Wyndham at 3.20pm today.”

The river was expected to peak at 2450 cumecs at Gore before 9.20am, and at Mataura with 2665 cumecs at 11.50am, it said.

At 7.15am it told the residents of East Gore to evacuate as the river continues to rise.

“The main bridge in Gore will be closed shortly.”

“Go to higher ground and stay with family or friends,” the alert said.

People were being  encouraged go and stay with friends and family on higher ground.

‘‘Before leaving, check on neighbours and share this information if doing so won’t delay you. Call 111 if you are in danger.’’

Top cop: ‘I have never seen the river like that’

Inspector Jon Bisset, speaking from Mataura, said people in low lying areas were being asked to evacuate for their own safety.

“So we’ve got evacuation points set up all over the place.

“All our staff going around communicating that to the community – we are going around door knocking all the addresses at the moment to make sure they are clear and assisting anyone who needs a hand out.

“People who need assistance can contact us via 111 if it’s an emergency or on the 105 number if need be.

“Personally I have never seen the rivers like that – I grew up in the Southland and I’ve never seen the river like that.”

A reporter on the ground in Mataura said the town was almost completely empty by about 9.15am and the bridge was closed about 9.30am.

Meanwhile a reporter on the ground in Mandeville, inland from Gore, said huge chunks of farm land were flooded.   She confirmed about a kilometre radius around the river was flooded.

She was preparing for evacuation but said the rain had stopped.

“It is actually beautifully sunny here.”

People were reminded to take any medications they require, some clothing and personal items including documents.

‘‘If you are evacuating with pets, ensure they are contained on a leash or in a cage and that you have food for them.’’People were being advised to stay away from flood areas until Civil Defence gave the all clear.

Members of the public were being advised not to drive or walk through flood waters.

”The water may have washed away parts of the road and may contain debris. Tread all flood water as contaminated and unsafe.”

Community hubs are open in the following locations:

Gore:

  •     Calvin Community Church
  •     Croydon Lodge
  •     Waimumu Hall
  •     Waimumu Field Days site, where people can evacuate with pets

Mataura

  •     Buses will be departing from the Presbyterian Church around 8:30am and from the Mataura Community Centre around 8:30-9am leaving for the Edendale Presbyterian Church and the Christian Activity Centre. These will evacuate residents and do round trips

Wyndham

  •     Wyndham Community Centre

Emergency Management Southland said on Facebook early this morning that more roads would be affected by floodwaters today.

“The Riverton Highway is likely to be significantly affected, so please bear this in mind when planning any travel.

“We advise avoiding any unnecessary travel – taking extreme caution if you need to go out and checking [the NZ Transport Agency] and local council websites for road closures.”

In a statement released from Powernet this morning, it says the company “is closely working with the Gore District Council and Emergency Management Southland with the threats of flooding in and around the Gore and Mataura areas’’.

PowerNet chief operating officer Justin Peterson said PowerNet teams were currently developing a plan on The Power Company network to de-energise electricity supply in the low-lying areas around the Mataura River.

“For public safety we will be disconnecting power supply to some areas of Gore and Mataura, we will notify the affected areas on our outages website as well as through our Facebook page.” Mr Peterson said.

“The safety and well-being of employees and the community are our first priorities when working in a state of emergency.’’

The statement also reminded members of the public to not approach broken lines on the ground and were reminded to keep themselves and other people away.

Among residents evacuated is Hokonui Breakfast radio host Luke Howden and his family.

He described having to wade thorough waist-high water to leave their home late yesterday afternoon.

“It would’ve been about 4 o’clock yesterday that the water just started to rise quite rapidly and before we knew it, it was licking on the back doorstep.

“We had the fire crews outside whistling for us to grab some things and get out,” he said.”It was a matter of wading through waist-high water to get to the end of the street and into safety.”

He said it had been an unsettling night for everyone.

“Lying there thinking: ‘Well, what sort of state is the house going to be when we return’?”

He said there was a “pretty eerie” feeling in the air this morning, as they were effectively now cut off from the rest of the country.

“Every major trunk line in and out of Gore has been closed. As a result, you don’t have the through-traffic that you usually would at this time of the morning.

“Yet in the background, you can hear the surging torrent of the Mataura River. I went for a wee walk down the banks moments ago and, at this stage, it looks contained.”

Additional reporting NZ Herald