Thursday, March 30, 2023
HomeNew ZealandCyclone Gabrielle: Police prioritise searching for those uncontactable, isolated

Cyclone Gabrielle: Police prioritise searching for those uncontactable, isolated

Flood damage at Omaranui Road in Hawkes Bay

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Flood damage at Omaranui Road in Hawkes Bay
Photo: Jonathan Bixley

There were 3544 reports of people uncontactable by 2pm today, as police and search and rescue teams prioritise those unaccounted for or in areas isolated by flood waters.

Of the people reported via the Police 105 online reporting form as uncontactable, the vast majority were from Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti, police said.

Many of the reports would be duplicates or because people were unable to make contact.

While the worst of the weather may have passed, Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti still face significant and potentially life-threatening challenges in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, police said in a statement.

“Additional police staff are already on the ground in Eastern District, with more to come in the days ahead.

“These officers will assist with recovery efforts and conduct highly visible reassurance patrols throughout affected areas.

“Searches are being carried out carefully and methodically, which takes time.

“We know many people are concerned about family members and friends in the region, and police have a dedicated team working through reports submitted via the police 105 online reporting form.”

So far, 450 people had reported themselves safe, however, police expected that number to rise significantly.

Police asked people to not submit multiple reports if they were unable to reach a loved one.

“Your initial report can be updated with additional information, if required. If you locate the person you reported missing, please update your report with this information.”

At present, five people are confirmed dead following the storm.

“Most recently, the body of a man in his 60s was recovered from flood waters in Gisborne.”

At his media briefing this evening, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he expected the number of fatalities to rise.

Throughout the district, many rivers remain flooded, and water levels are dangerously high.

We urge people to stay out of and away from all floodwaters – if you have evacuated your home, please stay where you are until you have been given the all-clear to return.

If not, you risk putting yourself in an unsafe situation at a time when emergency services are already stretched.

Please do not panic-buy petrol or food – there is enough for everyone as long as people only buy what they need.

Motorists are urged to stay off the roads unless their travel is urgent.

Private vehicles are causing unnecessary congestion on local roads, delaying the response of emergency services to people in need of assistance.

Police can confirm the Hawke’s Bay Dog Base was inundated with flood water and is significantly damaged.

A full assessment of the property, a former house, will be undertaken at an appropriate time.

The offices and kennel facility serves as a base for the Hawke’s Bay handlers working across Hastings and Napier.

All operational dogs are safe and continue to live with their handlers.

Police are responding to some reports of burglaries across the district and will be taking a hard line with anyone acting unlawfully and compounding the suffering of our hard-hit communities.

We understand this is a stressful and challenging time for many whānau so it’s important we look after each other.

We ask that people take stock, take a breath and tautoko each other in the times ahead.

If you are still unable to contact a family member or friend and have genuine concerns for their safety, please provide as much information as possible here.

Communications throughout the district are beginning to be restored.

If you are in a life-threatening situation, call 111 immediately.

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.
  • 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.
  • If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
  • If you don’t need to evacuate, support those who do by staying home, staying off roads and staying safe.
  • If you are not able to contact your whānau in the heavily affected areas go to Police 105 website and complete the inquiry form or phone 105 and remember to update if you reconnect through other means.
  • Throw away food and drinking water that has come into contact with floodwater as it is often contaminated and can make you sick.
  • If you are without power eat the food from your fridge first, then your freezer. Then eat the food in the cupboard or your emergency kit.
  • People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of civil defence and emergency services.
  • A National State of Emergency is in place for an initial period of seven days and applies to regions that have declared a local State of Emergency.

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