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Edgecumbe under guard, residents wait

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/04/2017

Edgecumbe remains under guard and mostly under water as residents wait to hear when they can return and wonder what they will find.

A state of emergency was declared on Thursday after the Rangitaiki River breached the College Road flood bank, forcing 1600 people to evacuate as the council declared one-in-500-year flood event caused by ex-cyclone Debbie.

Prime Minister Bill English visited on a sunny Friday, seeing streets strewn with debris and others still under water. He compared the flood to the Kaikoura earthquake.

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

People expressed frustrations on social media, saying some pets are missing and they want to check their properties.

Officials say it may be up to 72 hours before they can and pumps brought in from around the country will take a week to two to pump all the water out.

A boil water notice is in effect for the entire Ruatoki and the Rangitaiki Plains and the New Zealand Defence Force on Friday afternoon sent 23 army reservists to help police.

Bay of Plenty district police commander Superintendent Andy McGregor says there has been no looting.

"We understand people may have concerns about the security of their homes following the evacuations but it is important they do not return until it is made clear by the appropriate authorities that it is safe to do so," he says.

Fine weather is expected during the weekend before there is more rain next week.

Officials said the Matahina Dam is structurally sound and rumours that it failed were untrue.

Whakatane Distric Mayor Tony Bonne says a full investigation will be undertaken.

There have been questions about the management of the dam during the flood but power company TrustPower is confident of the way it handled water flows.

About 2200 people in the wider region are isolated and aerial food drops are being made to them.

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