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Volunteer effort gears up in Edgecumbe

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/04/2017

An army of volunteers has taken to the streets of Edgecumbe with a lot of work ahead of them.

About 1600 residents were evacuated from the Bay of Plenty town nine days ago when a floodwall gave way as former Cyclone Debbie crossed New Zealand.

On Saturday, residents from a further 229 flood-damaged homes were allowed to return but as many as 174 are "yellow-stickered", meaning they are too damaged to be permanently lived in at present.

"We feel for the people returning to their homes today. Many of them will need alternative accommodation for the medium to long term as their homes are repaired," Whakatane District mayor Tony Bonne said.

Offers of help are being posted on the Ki Kaha Edgecumbe Facebook page and councils and Te Runanga o Ngati Awa have created the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army,

More than 680 people have registered as volunteers and after a karakia at the Ruaihona Marae Recovery Centre, many set to work on Saturday.

"We've got two shifts working in zone three today to help residents get their places cleaned up and have plenty of work for volunteers tomorrow," volunteer co-ordinators Wini Hahipene-Geddes and Pim De Monchy said.

Mr Bonne welcomed the volunteers and thanked them for their efforts.

"I'm extremely proud of the number of people who have put their hands up to help our region get back on track; not only those here today, but also the volunteers who have been on the ground since ex-Cyclone Debbie first hit."

The exteriors of about 80 properties were cleaned and volunteers assisted residents to clean inside the properties.

On Sunday, about 120 volunteers will work on the north side of Edgecumbe in zone four and 30 will continue the clean-up in zone three.

Although water is restored to much of the town, authorities have asked residents to conserve water because the town's network remains fragile, and a boil-water notice remains in place.

Tankers are being used to provide drinking water to the town.

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