West Coast storm: Locals heartbroken as scale of clean-up job hits home

The rain has cleared, leaving behind a massive clean-up job on the West Coast.

Authorities are scrambling to assess the damage to the region and fix the Waiho Bridge, which connects the coast to Otago.

For Michael Mitchell, the rain brought heartbreak, his home soaked for the third time.

"It's coming up more than it was an hour ago," Mitchell told Newshub

His backyard is more like a pool, his wheelbarrow is almost completely submerged.

"It just got worse and worse until, I don't know, it might have been 1am or 2am - and then it came into the house and just kept flooding," he said.

Overnight, firefighters waded through Hokitika's main street while the floodwaters threatened the township's tourist businesses. Emergency workers were pumping the water out, trying to keep up the best they could.

West Coast storm: Locals heartbroken as scale of clean-up job hits home
Photo credit: Newshub.

Harry Collett, Chief Fire Officer for Hokitika, said the water peaked around 4am and the firefighters could keep it at bay since then. 

An elderly woman died just north of Hokitika after getting caught in flood waters in Arahura Valley. She was swept away in a strong current trying to cross the flood waters by foot.

Civil Defence took to the air to survey the damage along the coastline.

All the rivers are still running high, leaving behind remnants of the storm that packed a punch in a 36-hour drenching along Westland.

At Franz Josef, not much is left of the Waiho Bridge, a component of State Highway 6 that connects the West Coast to Central Otago.

Jake Schonburger watched on as it was ripped away by the raging torrent just before dark

"It was pretty impressive, you'd never see anything like that in your life, just being in the right place at the right time," he told Newshub.

Fox Glacier resident Taui Hanna is stranded on the wrong side of the river, and has no idea how he'll get home again.

"Now I don't know what to do; I've got no clothes, I've got no food, and everything I own is there. I've got nothing. Just what I'm wearing is what I own." 

The storm is gone and the sun is finally out, but the effects will be felt for months to come.