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Edgecumbe flooding riverbank plugged

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/04/2017

The breach in a stopbank through which floodwaters from the swollen Rangitaiki River had been flowing into the Bay of Plenty town Edgecumbe has now been plugged.

It has led water levels to drop in some places, although the town remains inundated and about 1600 residents are still unable to return to their homes.

The Whakatane District Council said the breach repair was working well.

"So water is not continuing to flow into Edgecumbe anymore," it said in a statement on Saturday.

"Water levels continue to drop around the Edgecumbe area, however we still anticipate the area will take 7-10 days to dry."

With residents warned it may take up to 10 days before they were allowed back into their homes, two community meetings have been planned for Saturday afternoon at nearby evacuation centres.

The first will be held at 4pm in Kawerau and the second at 6pm in Whakatane.

Edgecumbe, meanwhile, remains under guard and is cordoned off until it is deemed safe for residents to return.

There have been no reports of looting.

A boil water notice is in effect for the entire Ruatoki, Taneatua and the Rangitaiki Plains as Edgecumbe's sewerage system is not working and it is without power.

With residents unable to re-enter the town, emergency teams are now on the lookout for stranded pets, going door-to-door on Saturday morning in a bid to rescue them.

There are still residents isolated by floodwaters in the communities of Minginui, Ruatahuna, Te Whaiti and Ruatoki, the Whakatane District Council said.

Emergency supplies are being delivered by air while authorities are working to restore road access.

Prime Minister Bill English also visited on Friday and compared the flood to November's Kaikoura earthquake.

There are 900 empty houses and in a proportion of them no one will ever go back, he says.

The Rangitaiki River and Whakatane/Tauranga rivers reached their highest water flows on record during Thursday's heavy downpour.

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