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New Zealand

Residents of Puketapu are fighting to clear the silt mass

Hawke’s Bay hamlet Puketapu comes to life with the sounds of diggers scraping mud and people dragging things out of flood-damaged homes.

Communities west of Napier were in cleanup mode.

The local pub was turned into an information center and the school hall into a general store for donated essentials.

The Puketapu school hall is filled with donated food and clothing for those in need.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Puketapu resident Olly Midgley says the entire lot is still filled with water.

He and his wife couldn’t live in the yellow-stickered house, but during the day they did what they could to dry their belongings while the builders removed the waterlogged jib. was doing.

Cottage piles on the property were moved and the garage was completely filled with water last Tuesday.

Two vintage cars were flooded, but Midgley had emptied their engines.

Olly Midgley collects belongings from Puketapu's house.

Olly Midgley collects belongings from Puketapu’s house.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Their home was moved from Taradale to this property and was 2 meters high a few years ago before it was lowered by the previous owner.

When Cyclone Gabriel passed, Midgley and his wife thought of using a wine barrel as a flotation device, so they were kayaked to safety by their neighbors.

“[The water] The house was about 8 feet deep…at first I saw water seeping through and found small brown spots growing like amoebas from the floorboards. “

Much of Olly Midgley's property is covered in silt after Cyclone Gabriel.

Much of Olly Midgley’s property is covered in silt.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

He half-jokingly said that when it rained, it would be a cycle to rinse his muddy possessions.

“We have saved a little bit. We are fine. There are many people who are far worse off than we are.”

Dry clothes in the sun at Olly Midgley's house.

Dry clothes in the sun at Olly Midgley’s house.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Some of those people lived on nearby Dartmoor Road, where their homes were swept away and residents clung to roofs awaiting rescue.

The water was so powerful that it blew up a local bridge.

The Puketapu school hall has been transformed into a general store filled with food, clothing and other donations for those in need.

Mindy Windross, the mother of the school children, was one of the hall’s volunteers.

“The first few days, [people were after] Underwear, socks, a change of clothes. There was a man who wept because he could have given him socks and rubber boots after walking barefoot in the mud for three days.

“Just giving him new rubber boots was huge,” she said.

Puketapu's roads are piled with damaged household goods, but volunteers are removing the rubbish.

Puketapu’s roads are piled with damaged household goods, but volunteers are removing the rubbish.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

The school even had showers built by the locals for those without water. At first, I used the school pool to wash my body.

Despite the lack of power, water and communications over the past week, the community’s efforts continued.

“I keep saying that I make sweets for a living.

Mary Danielson, owner of The Puketapu, opened the pub's doors for community use after Cyclone Gabriel.

Mary Danielson, owner of The Puketapu, has made the pub available to the community.
photograph: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Mary Danielson, who owned the pub The Puketapu, also left her door open.

“We have lawyers. We have insurance people. We have MSD.

“There are a lot of people here who don’t have access to computers, so that’s great.”

Danielson also had her own cleanup to worry about, as floodwaters swept through the pub.

Meanwhile, residents were working in shifts and manning the roadblocks through the night.

“They’re there to stop all the looters from coming in. It was starting to happen, so that’s great,” she said.

“There are four to six people riding at the same time, and there’s a big truck in the middle of the road that’s stopping people from coming unless they have a resident card.”

Farmers Phil and Louise Alexander were also in cleanup mode.

Their 600 hectares of land had slid down along the fence, their paddocks had livestock that didn’t belong to them, and the flood had thrown containers into their sheds.

We had no power until Tuesday, but now we can pump water to drink and use electric fencing to contain the animals.

“There’s a big lake in the background because of the river. The river broke through the bank,” said Louise Alexander.

“But I’m blessed because I haven’t lost my home or my family.”

RNZ met several people from outside the district who came to help, including Steve Orchard from Napier.

He was part of an effort to remove trash from the streets. It was piled up as residents dragged damaged items to the roadside.

James Danvers from Napier was there on his day off and had a barbecue for lunch and breakfast.

He said it’s hard work but worth it.

*People can donate to the Puketapu relief effort via bank account number 12 3479 0013308 50 or email puketapufinance@gmail.com

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/484692/puketapu-residents-battling-through-masses-of-silt-to-clean-up Residents of Puketapu are fighting to clear the silt mass

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