Weather: Westland flooding continues, destroyed bridge to be assessed

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is working on how to fix the bridge which collapsed over the Waiho River on the West Coast, as wild weather lashes the country.

The Waiho River Bridge spectacularly crumbled in front of onlookers on Tuesday after heavy rain in Westland.

Rain soaked the district on Tuesday, reaching levels that had not been seen for decades.

"It's been 20 years since we've seen the rain levels that we're currently seeing at Milford sound, 430mm in the gauge already recorded there," MetService spokesperson Georgina Griffiths said on Tuesday morning.

A state of emergency was declared just before 6PM on Tuesday.

Further rain fell overnight and Civil Defence said in a statement on Wednesday morning there is widespread flooding in Westland.

Aerial inspections will take place on Wednesday morning.

NZTA Spokesperson Colin Hey told Newshub the Lewis Pass is currently the only option for West Coast travellers.

"Going through Canterbury all the way down to Wanaka and vice versa, we've also got a closure in place on State Highway 73, there's a slip up there."

Hey said the NZTA will be reassessing the bridge situation on Wednesday, but it could be a while before the situation is clear.

"We won't know until we get a good look at things when the river levels go down again."

The bridge was an important link on the West Coast and without it tourists have been left stranded.

"Most of the people don't really know about the situation, the people who wanted to go from Franz Josef to Queenstown, they couldn't go because the bridge was damaged," Franz Josef Four Square duty manager Sonel told Newshub.

Hey said the bridge will be fixed as soon as possible.

"That particular link is vital and we realise how important it is and we'll be doing everything we can to get it reinstated as quickly as possible."

State Highway 6 is closed south of Hokitika to Makarora until further notice.

People on the West Coast are being advised to avoid travel until the weather improves.

Heavy rain warnings remain in place for Westland, Buller and the Canterbury headwaters. Strong wind warnings are in place for the Canterbury high country, Wellington and Wairarapa from Featherston southwards.