Torrential rain subsides in Napier after flooding, landslides, 350+ callouts

Several schools are closed and hundreds of residents remain without power after torrential rain caused widespread flooding and multiple landslides in Napier on Monday.

A local State of Emergency was declared by Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise on Monday after the Hawke's Bay city and surrounding suburbs were battered by heavy rain causing floods and landslides. 

While the downpours have now subsided, between 3pm on Monday and just after midnight, there were more than 350-weather related callouts. The streets were so flooded that Fire and Emergency (FENZ) required the assistance of Defence to access many of the "waterlogged" streets. 

Ken Cooper, Fire and Emergency (FENZ) Hawke's Bay area commander, told The AM Show there were 80 firefighters working at the peak of the weather chaos. 

"The calls ranged from minor flooding to some really significant landslips on Napier Hill. We are prioritising the vulnerable in our community," he said on Tuesday morning.

"This storm was described as a 1-in-250 year event. We have 16 properties that have been affected by significant landslips. This morning we have our urban search and rescue teams coming in from Palmerston North and they will be working closely with the Napier City Council to do a further assessment into all those buildings."

The wild weather forced many residents to be evacuated from their homes and some will not be able to return "for quite some time", according to Wise.

"It was… the heaviest rainfall I have ever experienced in my 46 years of living here in Napier," she told The AM Show on Tuesday morning.

"There are a number of landslips on the hill. We will be doing an impact assessment to ascertain the areas that we really need to focus on as a priority. Obviously, the most important thing is to ensure that our community is safe and look after the welfare of those people who have been most impacted."

Wise said that around 10 schools will be closed on Tuesday as they assess damage from the weather.

Some posted on their Facebook pages to alert families. 

"Due to the heavy rain and unprecedented flooding in Napier tonight, all schools in Tamatea will be closed for the day tomorrow to minimise risk to our tamariki and whānau, and give us an opportunity to assess our school sites," Porritt Primary School said.

"Following a consultation with the local MoE office and contact with our respective Board of Trustees Chairs, we have made the collective decision to close. We will update our school communities as soon as possible tomorrow with any further updates."

As of Tuesday morning at 9am, there were still seven unplanned power outages affecting hundreds of people. The majority centred around Onekawa and Tamatea and are expected to last until 4pm.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on her Instagram account on Tuesday morning that she had spoken to Emergency Management Minister Kiri Allen.

"Kiri has been staying in close touch with the local leaders on the ground and will be heading to the area today to see what extra support might be needed. I’m told that there might be another weather event in the region this afternoon so please stay safe everyone!"

Just before 2am on Tuesday, Hawke's Bay Civil Defence said rain had eased and no further significant downpours were expected in the early hours of the morning. 

Metservice said that the heavy rain band which caused the significant flooding "has moved south off the area and lies across Wellington and Wairarapa".

There had been concern that Napier's drinking water may have been contaminated, but on Tuesday morning, Civil Defence said there was no evidence of this. 

"The water supply will be tested throughout the day and we'll update you if the situation changes. The Hawke's Bay District Health Board is keeping a close eye on the situation, and working closely with our team and Napier City Council."

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said on Tuesday morning that flooding on the city's state highway network has receded.

A freephone number - 0800 422 923 - has been set up for anyone in Napier needing food or clothing because they have been displaced by the flooding. Anyone who can't stay at their home or with others can self-evacuate to a centre at Kennedy Park.