Weather: Canterbury flooding – Ashburton closed to south, main bridge collapses

Aerial view of flooding in Canterbury as days of heavy rain caused widespread flooding in the Canterbury area. Video / George Heard

Ashburton residents have been cut off from the south as the town’s main bridge now collapses.

Ashburton District Council alerted residents just before 7 a.m. that the Ashburton Bridge had been compromised due to bad weather.

The bridge is now closed.

“There is currently no alternative route south as all other route options are closed.”

Located on State Highway 1, this is the main bridge over the Ashburton River, and a problem with the piles caused the bridge to collapse.

Ashburton River Bridge upstream of the railway bridge on May 30.  The bridge was closed this morning due to the collapse.  Photo / Linda Clarke, Ashburton Courier
Ashburton River Bridge upstream of the railway bridge on May 30. The bridge was closed this morning due to the collapse. Photo / Linda Clarke, Ashburton Courier

Waka Kotahi NZ transport agency said weather conditions in the Canterbury area had mostly eased. But the rivers would remain swollen for a while.

Residents were reminded that the floodwaters will take time to recede.

“A heavy rain warning remains in place for Canterbury around and north of Cheviot – and Marlborough around and south of Kaikōura.

The latest information comes as two to three months of rain threw Canterbury into a downpour in a matter of days that has been called the one-time event in 100 years.

Canterbury local authorities have evacuated more than 300 properties amid severe weather that has forced hundreds of residents to flee flood waters threatening their homes.

Ten national roads were closed, while other roads were destroyed and four bridges washed away.

The displaced from their homes stayed with friends and whānau while others went to evacuation centers set up by the civil defense and the marae.

However, yesterday, many evacuated residents were able to start returning home, to begin the inevitable clean-up of the debris and damage left behind.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said yesterday rain was decreasing in the area – but caution was still required around swollen rivers.

“The rivers will of course still be high and they can stay high even after the local rains have ended.”

A rare “red warning” was issued by MetService late last week, just the second time such a warning has been issued by authorities.

The red warning between Geraldine and Amberley was lifted at 7 p.m. last night, but an orange warning from Amberley to Kaikōura was due to be lifted at midnight.

Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate from the rising waters.  Photo / George Heard
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate from the rising waters. Photo / George Heard

Dozens of Waimakariri residents were told to leave their homes immediately on Sunday evening as the banks of two flooded rivers were at risk of falling or giving way.
Resident evacuations in low-lying areas of The Pines Beach continued yesterday afternoon with emergency services knocking on residents’ doors.

Others have been put on alert and warned to be ready to evacuate if necessary.
Farmers were urged to exercise extreme caution and prioritize their own safety while working in unsafe conditions to save animals and move animals, RNZ reported.

According to Niwa figures, Lismore, near Ashburton, received 238mm of rain in 2.2 days – the same amount she experienced in the previous 187 days.

Aerial photos show the aftermath of the weather event where houses were left completely surrounded by brown water and paddocks submerged.

The residents of Selwyn Huts had to evacuate as the water threatened to cut off the settlement.  Photo / George Heard
The residents of Selwyn Huts had to evacuate as the water threatened to cut off the settlement. Photo / George Heard

Residents of Canterbury woke up to a region-wide state of emergency yesterday, with many students staying at home after their schools and preschools were closed.
Parts of Akaroa were submerged yesterday. Township residents were urged to conserve water, as the supply depended heavily on the surrounding streams which were affected by the heavy rains.

This meant that drinking water could only come from boreholes.

Meanwhile, the rain also caused heavy sewage overflows yesterday, with residents being warned to treat sewage they come in contact with as potentially contaminated.

The Ashburton District Council confirmed on Monday that its pond on Wilkins Rd had been inundated.
Mayor Neil Brown said stormwater seeped into the pond and overflowed, leaving the floodwater contaminated with sewage. A pond pipe was also damaged due to the flooding, causing contaminated water to seep into a creek heading towards Hood Lake.

Aerial view of flooding in Canterbury as heavy rainy days caused widespread water level rise.  Photo / George Heard
Aerial view of flooding in Canterbury as heavy rainy days caused widespread water level rise. Photo / George Heard

Yesterday a car was seen on a shore near the Waimakariri Gorge.

Fire trucks arrived at the scene with the firefighters and a high ropes expert was deployed who determined that no one was inside the vehicle.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzie District Council warned yesterday that there could be loose cattle as the river level drops.

He said the fences may have been washed away, meaning the stock may not be contained and may wander the roads.

He also warned that debris and gravel in rivers could cause further damage to bridges.

The MetService is forecasting drier conditions today, with showers expected to dissipate by the afternoon.




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