7pm- Stop press
A rescue team is heading to Ruatahuna to rescue about 30 people trapped in vehicles on the road between Ruatahuna and Murupara, Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said.
At the same time Thornton residents were being urged to evacuate as fears mounted the Rangitaiki River would breach a stopbank near the small community.
5pm- Edgecumbe security
Whakatane District Council has assured Edgecumbe residents their properties will be safe overnight. A security cordon will be mounted at all entrances to the town with police support.
Parts of Edgecumbe have not yet been flooded but the risk of further stopbank breaches is such that it is considered too hazardous for people to return to their homes until the river flow subsides. Public affairs manager Ross Boreham said the situation would be reviewed in the morning and the council would communicate with residents about the process of getting them back into their homes.
"Damage to flooded homes will also need to be assessed to determine whether homes are safe to inhabit. It is still likely that it could be up to 72 hours before that is possible, in some cases, and where damage is significant, it could be longer."
He said teams would be out in the community from early tomorrow to start an initial needs assessment process. "Residents are asked to help with that process and be patient.We all want this situation to be dealt with as quickly as possible, but the reality is that resources are limited. Everything that can be done will be done to get people home where they belong."
5pm- School buses will not run tomorrow.
School buses in the Whakatane District will not be operating tomorrow because of concerns about the state of the roads.
The NZ Transport Agency is urging people to take extra care on the roads and to check for the latest conditions before travelling with flooding, slips and wash outs affecting state highways across the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel.
Transport Agency Highways Manager Karen Boyt said it was important that people check the state of roads before they travel.
“The situation can change rapidly and all road users particularly in the eastern Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel should be calling our 0800 number or checking our website before leaving the house.
“Roads will be re-opened and travel restrictions lifted as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the meantime we’re asking everyone to be patient, use detours where indicated and comply with temporary speed restrictions where they are in place.
“People should also continue to look out for flooding and debris on the road."
3pm - Water supply restored to some areas.
The Taneatua water supply has been restored.
Ruatoki water supply has also been restored, but the Whakatane District Council is advising residents to boil water notice is in because there maybe some discolouration in the supplied water.
A previously planned water shutdown from 6 to 7 April that would have affected the Awakeri area east of the Rangitaiki River has been cancelled.
2pm - Power returned to Taneatua, but some without electricity for night
Horizon Networks says the electricity supply to Taneatua township has been restored, including to Whakatane District Council pumping stations but some people will be without power tonight.
Operations manager Jan Cronje said 40 customers between Whakatane and Taneatua would remain without supply until floodwater had subsided and lines could be safely accessed to complete repairs.
"Based on current information it is unlikely we will have access to this part of the network until tomorrow and affected customers should prepare for a night without power."
1.30pm - Whakatane River overtops stopbanks
The rural area around Titoki Road to the west of Whakatane has also been evacuated because of the Whakatane River overtopping of a floodbank on the Whakatane River.
An update on the Whakatane District Council website states the Whakatane and Rangitaiki Rivers are at historically high flood levels and river flows are unlikely to subside sufficiently to allow access to cut-off areas in Taneatua, Ruatoki and Waimana, and the evacuated areas, for some time. Evacuees are expected to be away from their homes for up to 72 hours.
12.30pm - Taiwhakaea Marae opens its door for evacuees
Taiwhakaea Marae at Te Paroa, in Whakatane, is one of the several Eastern Bay that will open its meeting house for those affected by flooding.
Te Runanga o Ngati Awa chief executive Leonie Simpson said she had asked the marae to open their doors after she was contacted by the Whakatane District Council.
“Marty Grenfell contacted the Runanga today to offer council support to affected Ngati Awa communities and whanau. At that time we also discussed the possibility of Ngati Awa marae hosting evacuees. With the agreement of the marae chairs we have contacted, marae contact details have been passed on to Council to directly liaise with marae.
"Marae are readily equipped to house people, and are very familiar with caring for large groups. We have also sent out an update to all Runanga Representatives and most marae chairs to encourage them to contact Arapeta Taitoko at the council if they have any concerns or inquiries regarding how marae may assist.”
The marae was taking donations of food and blankets to help with those who could not return home.
11.30am - Taneatua and Waimana doctors closed
Bay of Plenty Primary Health Alliance advises Taneatua Medical Centre and the Waimana Health Clinic are closed until further notice because of flooding.
Patients from the Taneatua and Waimana clinics can contact The Doctors Kopeopeo on 308 5771 to be seen for prescriptions and for non-emergency medical problems. The Doctors Kopeopeo is currently located in the Total Health building at 252 The Strand.
Riverslea Medical centre is also closed. Patients from Riverslea Medical Centre can contact Tarawera Medical Centre on 323 8499 to be seen for prescriptions and for non-emergency medical problems.
Anyone who wants to speak to a registered nurse for medical advice, call 306 2360
10.30am - Schools close at lunchtime
Whakatane and Trident high schools have both announced they will close at noon today due to flooding.
The schools were among 47 and 21 early learning services across the North Island, affecting 5875 school students and 709 pre-schoolers.
Ministry of education enablement and support sector deputy secretary Katrina Casey said a state of civil emergency had now been declared in Whakatane but we have been advised this impacts only on the Edgecumbe area, and schools and ECEs that are currently open across greater Whakatane do not need to close,”
“Our regional teams are also keeping a close eye on the developing weather situation in the Nelson-Marlborough, West Coast and Canterbury regions.
“The majority of these schools and early childhood centres (ECEs) have been closed because of flooding on nearby roads. There has been no reports of major damage although several schools and ECEs have reported minor damage.
“Those closed include three schools in Auckland, 19 schools and 10 ECEs in the Waikato, 17 schools and two ECEs in the Bay of Plenty/Taupo area, one ECE in the Hawkes Bay, eight schools and six ECEs in the Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatu area and two ECEs in the Wairarapa.
“As the severe wet weather and subsequent flooding is a developing situation, further closures are possible.
“The best information will come from schools and early learning services themselves as they make decisions about closures. Parents are advised to check their websites or Facebook pages or contact them directly."
10.20am - Power disrupted
Many Taneatua residents are still without power after the electricity supply to 1581 customers was interrupted at 6.48am. Horizon Networks spokesman Sean Aucamp said power was restored to most customers by 8.14am but could not provide a restoration time for Taneatua due to extensive flooding in the area.
He said an assessment of the damage would be made following a helicopter patrol this morning and further updates would be provided when information became available.
10.15am - Mayor declares Edgecumbe a state of emergency
Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne declared a state of emergency for Edgecumbe following the breach of the Rangitaiki River stopbank on College Road. Buses have been sent to Edgecumbe to take people without transport to welfare centres in Kawerau and Whakatane.
This morning helicopters were used to rescue people trapped in their cars as they tried to self-evacuate from south of Taneatua.
10am - Rangitaiki River burst its bank
A steady stream of Edgecumbe residents are making their way out of the town after the Rangitaiki River breached its stop-bank. Water from the river is gushing through a ten metre hole in a wall bordering the river.
Police have set up check points and are not allowing anyone to enter Edgecumbe.
Vicky Richards, who lives on College Road opposite the concrete mural, said her and her family were evacuated about 10 minutes before the river breached the stop-bank.
"We had enough time to fly out of the door, shove animals in the car and drive down the road."
Before leaving Edgecumbe, Mrs Richards said they called around to check in with family on Puriri Street. She said the family members hadn't been evacuated at that stage but the siren went off while they were there.
"We all left together and the river was coming down the road at the same time."
Initially the concrete wall with the mural on it cracked in two parts. Just before 10am, the remaining section of the wall crumbled and created a 20 metre hole from which water was gushing. Levels in the Rangitaiki River remained high.
9.30am - Poroporo residents on notification
Residents in Poroporo are also being warned to stay on alert with concerns the Whakatane River could also breach its stop-bank near the town's water treatment plant.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council reported a stop-bank close to Rewatu Road was likely to be breached in the near future. Residents were advised to evacuate homes in the following roads Titoki Road, the northern section of Rewatu Road, Leader Road, Burr Road and Pahou Road.
Rewatu Road resident Julian Tunui said he thought the stop-banks had burst this morning because there was water everywhere when he woke up.
"When I went to hop out of bed I got a hell of a fright because I stepped straight into water. I have had a lot of people that have come to help but there is nothing much anyone can do."
9am - Edgecumbe evacuated
WHAKATANE District Council has confirmed it is evacuating the Edgecumbe township because of the threat the Rangitaiki River will breach its stop-bank. Earlier this morning, water was seeping through a concrete wall on College Road featuring a mural of eels.