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No power, no cellphone

Some Wairarapa residents were cut off from the rest of the region and still without power and cellphone reception yesterday evening.

Tinui residents first lost power in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Powerco said the Tinui substation had sustained significant flood damage on Tuesday night, when footage posted on social media showed floodwater up to the windows of the Tinui Cafe and Bar.

“Backfeed options are being explored, and a tree needs to be removed before crews can restore power, hopefully, tomorrow [Thursday],” Powerco said.

White Rock and Tora residents were also still cut off.

Powerco said 704 Wairarapa customers were still without power yesterday evening.

It said it expected all customers across New Zealand to be reconnected by the end of the week.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] emergency management controller Paul Gardener said the council had been in contact with residents and “they all seemed to be okay”.

A Masterton District Council spokesperson said contact with the community had been difficult because of the power and cell phone outage, but contractors had been working hard to open the road.

They said the status of the road would be re-assessed this morning.

Riversdale Surf Lifesaving club captain Mike Taylor found himself stuck in Masterton on Tuesday evening after coming into town to teach a beach safety course to school children.

He said he made it back home to his Riversdale farm before the rain hit last night, but roads were still saturated, and many were still closed.

Taylor said power was on in Riversadale and cell phone networks were working.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president David Hayes said farms across the region were saturated and crops were badly damaged.

Hayes expected more slips and more damage to hit overnight.

Powerco said 905 Wairarapa customers were still without power at 11.30am yesterday morning.

The Times-Age understands local helicopter operators had flown to help with the flood response in Hawke’s Bay, but they were also expected to transport generators to cell phone towers in the Tinui area.

Hayes said he was worried about how communities would cope as more rain was forecast last night, continuing into today.

Metservice issued a heavy rain warning for Wairarapa south of Masterton from 10pm last night until 6am this morning.

It said between 80 and 100mm of rain could be expected by 6am this morning, with peak rates of 10 to 20mm per hour.

Metservice said the rain would mainly be concentrated in southern areas of Wairarapa.

SWDC urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel.

It said because the ground is already saturated from previous rainfall, ponding and surface flooding could appear faster than usual.

“Completely soaked ground is really easy to slip. It’s got no resilience to it at all,” Hayes said.

Hayes said there was a focus from the likes of the Rural Support Trust on protecting lives and animals.

The Government has provided initial nationwide funding of $4 million to help communities mobilise and co-ordinate recovery efforts from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Officials were unable to confirm if this funding was region-specific.

The Ministry of Social Development [MSD] has now extended its civil defence payment to Wairarapa and the Tararua District. Those in need can contact MSD on 0800 400 100 for more information.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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