THE whole town of Edgecumbe - 1600 people from more than 500 households - were evacuated on Thursday morning when the Rangitaiki River breached its stopbank. Every one of them has a story to tell about their experience and here are some of them.
The Cobdens of Rata Avenue
THE Cobden family from Edgecumbe’s Rata Avenue had less than a minute warning before the water reached their home.
On Thursday morning, brother and sister Tyler and Riley, went to the river, behind the Edgecumbe Plains Hotel, to see how high it had reached.
“The water was three-inches from the top of the bank and I have never seen it that high before,” Miss Cobden said.
They returned home, through the Riverslea Mall park, and told their father how high the water was. They planned to leave their home when they heard a neighbour yelling that the stop bank wall broke.
Mr Cobden went to the end of the driveway where he saw the water rushing from the top of the street.
By the time he turned around to warn his family the water had already reached his feet.
“It took three to four seconds for the water to reach us,” Miss Cobden said.
“Wheelie bins and fences were flying past our house.”
“It was scary,” Mr Cobden said. “Being that quick. We didn’t even have a minute to get out before the water was past our house.”
With adrenalin to leave the property, they didn’t grab clothing or put anything away.
As they left, so did every other resident who could.
“There was a bit of congestion at the top of Rata Avenue and Bridge Street. Everyone was in a panic.”
The siblings went to the Edgecumbe Fire Station where they have been since, looking after rescued animals and helping with volunteer crews.
Miss Cobden said a unimog drove around Edgecumbe checking homes for animals.
“Where they could get to, they would go. My cat was rescued, there was a goat, duck, rabbit and some dogs.”
The brother and sister were gutted for their community and it was now a waiting game for them before they could return to their home.
“It hurts. We flood all the time but this is the biggest we have had,” Miss Cobden said.
Te Aorere Mansell and Hemi Wahapango of Matipo Place
THEY purchased their Matipo Place home a year ago, and are going to have to start again.
Te Aorere Mansell and Hemi Wahapango left Edgecumbe on Thursday morning, as usual, not knowing they wouldn’t be able to return home.
When Mr Wahapango drove over the bridge to Whakatane, he noticed the river was still high. For caution, Miss Mansell checked on family at Tanekaha Street, right next to the river.
On her way out of Edgecumbe, she drove along College Road where she saw the stop bank wall leaking but continued on to work as normal.
As Miss Mansell travelled to Whakatane with her seven-month-old daughter, Haylee, she heard over the radio that Edgecumbe residents were being evacuated.
She then learned that the stop bank wall had broken and homes in Edgecumbe were being surrounded by water, including her own.
“Later in the day, I saw a video of a boat going through the streets of Edgecumbe and our house was almost two-metres under water.
“I just cried. I was happy to be safe but worried about my family.
“We left our house with just work clothes and my baby’s day bag.”
Miss Mansell and Mr Wahapango haven’t been able to return to Edgecumbe to assess their home.
Aerial footage of their street showed their fence was broken and their shed had moved.
“We are angry and absolutely devastated this has happened.
“I feel homeless.”
Although the couple weren’t sure of the damage done to their home, they were eager to see their house with their own eyes.
Leanne Nicol of Bridge Street
BRIDGE Street resident Leeanne Nicol had puppies to save as the water level rose at her home.
Ms Nicol was at work on Thursday morning when she was notified Edgecumbe residents were being evacuated.
She rushed home to warn her son and to evacuate the puppies she was looking after for a friend.
“Within 10 minutes of being home, I looked down Rata Avenue and it was like a tsunami coming down the street.”
Water on her property was ankle-deep and within seconds it was waist-deep.
“I had to put the puppies into the clothes basket so they could float.”
Ms Nicol saw a jet boat go past her house so she whistled out to the driver to turn around.
“I floated the puppies to the boat and the drivers two dogs and my Rottweiler swam to the boat and were taken to the vets at the end of the street.”
The water filled her street quickly and she wondered when it was going to stop.
“It just got higher and higher. I thought I was going to have to start swimming to safety.”
She was taken to dry land by boat but had to leave her four cats at home but she knew they would be safe as they often slept on top of the wardrobe.
Ms Nicol has been staying with family in Thornton and is looking forward to returning home.