Valentines’ Day

Flooding as Cyclone Gabrielle struck

It thundered and rained over South Island during the night. The day dawned cloudy and grey. Hubby and I were confined to quarters with Covid. No Valentine’s flowers, cards or romantic restaurant dinners for us. We had the Impatiens plant though, which had produced some very appropriate red flowers and now graced our front doorstep in an empty ice cream container. And we had leftover spaghetti bolognaise in the fridge.

Cyclone Gabrielle had rolled steadily over North Island, until the land was invisible from space under a duvet of cloud. There was nothing comforting about this duvet though. High winds and rain lashed the beaches, bays and green pastures of Northland, Auckland, and the Coromandal peninsular all the way round to Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay vineyards on the East coast. Tens of thousands of people lost power, water and internet. The rain coincided with a high tide. Rivers burst their banks, roads were washed away or buried under mud slides and bridges ceased to exist. Many people were displaced and lost everything. Those that remained in low lying areas were evacuated or advised to self evacuate to high ground before it was too late. Communities were cut off. The Coromandal had 410mm of rain. There were no access roads left.

Roads collapsed

As dawn broke over the mess the Government called a State of Emergency, only the third in New Zealand’s history. The first was for the Christchurch Earthquakes. The second was for Covid. The news reporters did their best. They defied the gusts of wind and wet in their rain jackets, holding onto their microphones for dear life. The cameraman got his cloth out and wiped the rain from the lens. The nation admired his thumb as the poor reporter tried to hear the question put to her from the studio. Then all communication with the teams in the field was lost as trees fell and the power and cell phone masts failed.  At least they could go and try to get dry somewhere.

Meanwhile the amateurs were at work.  An Auckland surf club had its deck ripped away. It was  filmed on a (still working) phone as it floated down to the sea on the raging waters. “That’s our dick!” The phone owner lamented. “Looks OK though.” Said someone behind him in an attempt to cheer him up. Then it hit submerged debris, and it really was not OK.

Parliament was suspended and MPs sent back to their constituencies to help out. The Prime Minister held daily press conferences in a huddle with his top people from the emergency bunker in Wellington, and a selection of sign language interpreters. He told us that over a thousand people in Hawkes Bay were unaccounted for, but this was mostly due to lack of comms, and very many of them were likely to turn up safe. He reassured us that no one was left stuck on a roof, having been rescued by NZ Airforce or local rescue choppers in incredibly difficult circumstances. Tragically several people lost their lives, including two brave volunteer firefighters and a child found in the mud. The number was likely to rise.

The armed forces were mobilised. A ship was despatched with supplies and bottles of water. The Prime Minister had arranged for a huge BBQ in Hawkes Bay. It would be for 3000 people and would continue all night until either the people or the food ran out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: