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NZ flood emergency and rescue of trapped drunks

July 24, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Two days of wild weather over the weekend dumped a month’s worth of rain on New Zealand’s South Island. Widespread flooding and rising rivers have triggered a state of emergency and an Australian travel advisory – as well as a dramatic rescue, in which a band of drunks were plucked from rising floodwaters near Dunedin.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an advisory yesterday:

New Zealand authorities have declared a state of emergency in parts of Otago and Canterbury following heavy rainfall and flooding. Anticipate flood-related disruptions to road travel and follow local instructions on road closures. Follow official announcements on the Civil Defence website and monitor the media for the latest information. The level of the advice has not changed. Exercise normal safety precautions in New Zealand.

Floods forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes. While the storms abated yesterday, other storms behind them are “lining up to bring more rain”, meteorologists in New Zealand said.

States of emergency were declared yesterday in Christchurch, Timaru District, Otago and Dunedin. Rivers burst their banks, road slips are reported and the military have been called in to help.

Temperatures around Dunedin have plunged below freezing. “People need to be aware there is widespread debris and damage,” Dunedin Civil Defence said.

The New Zealand Herald carried a memorable story about the crisis headlined: Helicopter, expert swimmers called to help drunks trapped in Dunedin floodwaters.

The story tells how specialist swimming teams and a helicopter rushed out in the middle of the night to rescue a group of intoxicated youths who had become stranded on a highway south of Dunedin, and had called emergency services. They had set off despite police advice not to.

Conditions were atrocious and floodwaters were rising. The man who called police was sitting on top of his vehicle, with others trapped inside.

Rescue teams reached the group and found nine people aged in their twenties, very drunk, inside two vehicles. Sobriety or drowning threatened.

“All nine individuals appeared to be intoxicated and they were all suffering from hypothermia,” Otago Coast Area Commander, Inspector Kelvin Lloyd, told the NZ Herald.

“A number of them were in such an advanced state to the point where they need to be carried out.”

Written by Peter Needham

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