Hawkes Bay & Tairawhiti: Cyclone Gabrielle update
On the 14th of February 2023, the NZ government declared a national State of Emergency in New Zealand to assist in the response to Cyclone Gabrielle.
Tairawhiti, Napier and parts of Hawkes Bay have been among the worst affected towns with Transpower saying it has declared a grid emergency given the loss of power in both regions.
"People should be prepared to be without power for days to weeks, rather than hours"
Visuals of the widespread devastation have been heartbreaking with 4 deaths confirmed and up to at least 9,000 people displaced in Hawkes Bay alone (10,500 country wide) with those numbers expected to rise as rescues are ongoing.
RNZ has reported a dozen helicopters from the Defence Force, rescue services and private operators plucked up to 400 people to safety.
Rotorforce Helicopters boss and chief pilot Joe Faram said "I had one case where I flew a man off a roof and he had his leg in plaster and a whole lot of young children and I flew a young couple off with a new-born." Full story here
One of the helicopter rescues was a group of Tongan RSE workers at Mr Apple Orchard in Hastings. They were stranded on the roof of their accommodation from morning until at least 3pm in the afternoon.
The men were initially rescued and dropped off in Fernhill but have been since taken in by a marae in Hastings but only managed to escape with what they could fit into a black rubbish bag.
(Footage in the video above via Lie Tu'imoala's facebook videos)
Pacific community leader Pakilau Manase Lua shared more photos from one of the men who was stranded (Lie Tu'imoala) on Wednesday morning and thanked the rescue and emergency volunteers who had responded to the SOS calls and pleas from the community to rescue the boys. He acknowledged that they were stretched and responding to many other calls for help but did make this point -
"These were not the only groups of RSE workers from the pacific left for hours in the cold and rain to fend for themselves. I believe everyone was trying their best in difficult circumstances but I also believe these vulnerable groups should have been top priority for rescue just by sheer scale of numbers.
This is not a criticism but a fact for consideration."
Pakilau said that if people would like to donate to the Tongan RSE workers they can either send to the Evacuation Centre they're staying at or contact Tevita Niu who is their handler over from Tonga on 021 073 4156. He will be able to provide information on where the boys are currently being accommodated as well.
Climate activist Brianna Fruean also commented on the workers being left on the top of roofs waiting to be rescued showing a clear intersection between climate change and migrant exploitation.
"Another BIG reminder that the climate crisis impacts some in harsher ways than others. At the end of the day the already disadvantaged will always get the shortest end of the stick"
NAPIER RSE UPDATE
Ali Leota, the Pacific/Disability Civil Defence coordinator for Hawkes Bay gave us this update in regards to RSE workers who were evacuated in Napier -
"RSE workers who were originally evacuated to Kings House Church have been relocated to Centennial Hall Napier with other members of the public but we are working on a new location to have our RSE workers taking shelter.
The workers have basically lost everything and only have the clothes on their back so a big Comms push for the following will be helpful:
Pasifika provider from Kings House Church in Napier, Charles Faletutulu has been on the ground there assisting with support for the RSE workers who have nowhere to go.
"It's been hectic. We've had over 400+ evacuated to our support site - 300 of them are RSE workers.
A very overwhelming time for the workers. We continue to support and provide welfare for these boys. Power remains off here in Napier." said Charles
"Most of these guys have lost everything. Walked through neckhigh floods with suitcases holding all they have left" he added.
While roads are still blocked in and out of Napier, you can send monetary donations to Kings House Church who are providing the evacuees with meals and welfare support.
Kings House Church bank account: 38-9009-0297745-000
HASTINGS RSE UPDATE
The following evacuation shelters are operating in the Hastings area: Te Aranga Marae, Cook Islands Community Hall, Hastings EFKS, Ascend Church, Flaxmere Community Centre, Hastings Sports Centre & FlaxRock Gym.
Food hasn’t been a problem for our RSE workers at EFKS Hastings and the Cook Islands Hall as people are continually dropping items off. All our RSE workers are doing well and are happy to cook for themselves to keep them occupied as they wait out the cyclone.
Comms lines are not the best at the moment and funny enough social media is the most reliable Comms in the region at the moment." Ali added.
Faye Kaisala is also organising basic necessities, plus clothes and toiletries for the Pacific RSE workers in Hastings who have lost everything in the floods. She has shared details below -
Priscilla Tuala-Fata, Director and Lead Trainer for PolyActive Hawkes Bay has been on the ground in the Flaxmere and Hastings area picking up donations and distributing them around to the different evacuation centres.
She said they have been getting bombarded with calls from all over NZ to donate towards the RSE workers but have been busy picking up and delivering donations.
To find out where to donate or send supplies please contact them via facebook messenger on their PolyActive Hawkes Bay facebook and instagram page OR call this number 027 457 8951.
You can also donate to the Ngāti Kahungunu iwi facebook page who are accommodating and feeding RSE workers and displaced families at the Te Aranga Marae and also helping with distributing donations.
Contact them directly on their facebook page or website here
Follow both these pages as they are giving out regular updates from around the whole community.
Julie Ferguson sent through footage of the flooding in Waiohiki, Napier in the video above and had to evacuate her home. Julie together with a few of her whanau and cousins leadership group at the Waiohiki Marae plus a mixture of current and former Waiohiki Marae and Ngāti Paarau Trustees, pulled together to support locals who were affected.
"We were able to save vulnerable Whanau from their houses on a big truck, some carrying bed ridden Whanau out of their homes and into safety all pulling together to help." Julie said
She said they currently have 110 people sheltering at the marae and were waiting for the Civil Defence Force to drop supplies in.
They managed to salvage enough food to keep everyone warm, dry and fed and the water has subsided enough for her to get into her house which is full of sludge and unliveable but was able to recover a taonga from her father and a few other precious things. However, they're still trapped up at the marae.
"We do have a marae contributions account that koha could go towards. Title Waiohiki Marae Response to Cyclone Gabrielle Waiohiki Marae Contributions Account: 03-0631-0175499-025"
Faialofa and Theresa Momoiseā who live in the Greenmeadows/Pirimai area said that her family were all safe and had not had to evacuate but said that access to Napier and Hastings was still blocked by flooding and bridge damage.
"People just want to leave town because there's no power and not being able to cook or do anything. I'm guessing some people will have cars stuck in electronic garages and can't go anywhere. There's only one gas station open at the moment and there's a cap of $40 per car." Theresa said.
"So much is lost down here especially orchards and farms. My uncle Murray had it hard. He lost everything, home, animals, cars, boats everything. He is safe which is the main thing and thank God he survived given his age and strength"
The roads are also closed going out to Waimarama as the Tukituki river has overflowed over this part of the road. There is no power, reception or internet but everyone is safe, the Pā is safe and there is minimal flooding.
Tangoio Marae and whānau homes have also been devastated. Some of the people living on or near the marae had been trapped but had been able to access high ground.
Their whare tīpuna Punanga Te Wao was devastatingly affected by flooding. If you would like to donate directly to their marae, here are the details.
In Tairāwhiti, Welfare centres are still accepting people who need to leave their homes due to flooding.
Civil Defence have also issued this warning - There are multiple breaks in the water pipe supplying Gisborne city and it is a significant crisis for our city. The only treated water they have now is the limited amount in the reservoirs.
Residents are urged to use less water otherwise some homes will have no water.
- Only use tap water for drinking, food preparation and hygiene – no outside water use.
- Reminder to turn off your irrigation systems and don’t wash your car.
Indigenous and Human rights advocate Tina Ngata has shared this video and a link for where you can donate to the coastal towns of Tokomaru, Waipiro and Matakaoa to be able to secure life-saving communications and power solutions.
Link here to donate and TIna's video below -
Women's Refuge has sent out an update as they continue to work hard to ensure that refuges in affected areas are operating to the best of their ability in challenging circumstances, despite many refuge staff members facing damaging storm impacts themselves.
"Our knowledge of what so often follows a natural disaster of this kind means that we also fear that many more women and children will potentially reach out for our services.
All of us, including refuges and their staff, will face immense challenges in the coming months as restoring communities is not a simple task. We will continue to meet those challenges – the women, children and families are our absolute priority and demand nothing less of us."
If you would like to make a one off donation to the Women's Refuge click here
National Emergency Management Agency advice:
- Put safety first. Don't take any chances. Act quickly if you see rising water. Floods and flash floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
- Stay at home if it is safe to do so. But have an evacuation plan in case your home becomes unsafe to stay in.
- If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
- People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of Civil Defence and emergency services.
- Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles. Flood water is often contaminated and can make you sick.
Video footage thanks to Julie Ferguson & Lie Tu'imoala
Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air