More than 200 students rescued after being stranded by central Otago storm

High school students left stranded by a storm in central Otago have been successfully rescued.

The year 10 Wakatipu High School students were on a 12-day outdoor Branches Camp.

After three days of torrential rain, the call was made to evacuate from Lochnagar - to the relief of students and staff.

The students who were rescued earlier on Thursday.
The students who were rescued earlier on Thursday. Photo credit: Jeff Aldridge / Newshub

Forty-six of the more than 200 stranded students were retrieved by helicopters earlier on Thursday. The remaining teens have since been removed from the camp through a challenging land rescue operation.

"We've been very lucky, we have got some awesome staff that have organised it all and the community who have got on board and helped all these students get back safely," Wakatipu High School teacher Juliet Scott says.

"We are very lucky and it has all gone smoothly... we are very happy."

As the rescue helicopters flew above, four-wheel-drive vehicles headed down Skippers Canyon to collect the remaining 178 students and staff on Thursday afternoon.

A convoy of roughly 60 cars were driven by the students' parents, travelling at about 20 kilometres on the often narrow and treacherous road to pick up their children.

Those first out were relieved to be back.

"All the rain made the rivers way too high for us to cross on the way back to camp," says year 10 student Ted Kerr.

Locals sprung into action on Wednesday, laying sandbags and taping plastic to shop fronts.

Parents have expressed their gratitude for the community's support.

"I hear that the only complaint is wet feet at the moment... hopefully some resilience and new relationships built and pleased to see their parents, their home... maybe they'll tidy their rooms now," school parent Alice Galloway told Newshub.

A heavy rain warning remains in place for the headwaters of the Otago lakes and rivers, with additional rain expected at the weekend.

Residents have been told to expect between another 150 and 200mm of rain to accumulate between Thursday and Saturday.