A massive slip of trees, rocks and soil has come down covering almost half a kilometre of the main trunk line to the West Coast's glaciers.
The landslide estimated to be around 400 metres long cascaded down over State Highway 6 between Harihari and Whataroa on Thursday evening.
The area was hit with 180mm of rain causing the land to give way, blocking the northen access to Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.
Whataroa acting fire chief Ian Philips told Newshub two vehicles with five people in them became wedged between two sections of the major landslide.
Mr Philps says a team of five took their chance when the swollen river dropped slightly, and waded through creeks and sometimes waste deep sludge to reach them.
"They were heading towards Franz Josef then got caught up in one slip so turned around to go the other way but were trapped in the middle."
Powerlines were also down and the rescues didn't know if they were live as the crambled back to safety, he says.
The road will stay closed all weekend and is expected to re-open on Monday, The New Zealand Transport Agency says.