Tolaga Bay family recalls desperate escape as flood destroys house

A Tolaga Bay woman has told of how her partner smashed a hole in the roof so they could escape a rapidly rising flood with their four-year-old granddaughter.

The water was up to their armpits before the couple and girl climbed through, before being rescued by a helicopter - but now they say they've lost everything.

The drama began at 3:30am on Monday when the 47-year-old grandmother - who doesn't want to be named - heard a huge rumbling from the creek next to her home.

Soon after, disaster struck.

"Logs and wood and that just smashed through the windows... it just got up to our armpits and we just had to like f**king get out," she told Newshub.

Her partner punched through the roof and they pulled up their granddaughter up to await the harsh, cold reality of dawn.

"The woolshed was all gone, the dog kennel, cars, the tractors - everything was gone, like, just, wiped out," she told Newshub.

Even when they saw their car floating past, they tried to stay calm for their granddaughter.

"She was like 'nana, we're having another cool adventure'," she told Newshub.

Four hours after they clambered up, the Eastland Rescue Helicopter came to pluck them from the roof.

Paramedic Shane Clapperton flew in with his wife, the pilot, and bundled the family into the chopper - granddaughter and all.

"She came into my arms, I was able to help her into the helicopter and she sat beside my wife all the way back and got a few cuddles to try and warm her up before she could get into a warm shower but you know she was excellent," he told Newshub.

The family was insured. Now they're staying with whanau.

"We're just grateful we're still alive because, honestly, it could have been different," the grandmother told Newshub.

The clean-up will begin in earnest on Tuesday, but one family won't be able to move on as quickly as most.