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RSE workers stranded by flooding

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Some of the workers who were stuck on the rooftop.

About 50 Tongan orchard workers who were trapped by floodwaters on rooftops in Hawke’s Bay are now stranded on a hill in Fern Hill.

Tongan RSE worker liaison for Hawke’s Bay, Tevita Lata, spoke with the men before their batteries ran out.

He said they were cold and hungry but they were resilient in part because they had gone through the Tonga volcano disaster.

The latest text to RNZ from Civil Defence said they were accompanied by police while a rescue team attempted to get them off the hill.

He said talks were underway about using a helicopter because the torrent of water surrounding them was so strong they might not be accessible by boat.

Earlier, Auckland Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua said families in Tonga watched on as their relatives filmed while perched on roofs surrounded by tree tops.

He said the scenes were harrowing to watch for the families.

Earlier this afternoon he told RNZ the workers had been rescued, however, this was based on some communications that were misunderstood.

Pakilau Manase Lua said he was told the men were safe and assumed safe meant rescued, not stranded on a hill.

He believed it was a life or death situation and remained concerned.

Lua said the Aotearoa Tonga Response Group has been activated to support Pasifika community members.

Hawke’s Bay is one of six regions to have declared a local state of emergency. Just before 9am today the government declared a national state of emergency.

National state of emergency: What you need to know

  • The New Zealand government has declared a National State of Emergency, to assist in the response to Cyclone Gabrielle.
  • The declaration will apply to the six regions that have already declared a local State of Emergency: Northland, Auckland, Tairāwhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawke’s Bay.
  • A national state of emergency gives the national controller legal authority to apply further resources across the country and set priorities in support of a national level response.

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.
  • Stay at home if it is safe to do so. But have an evacuation plan in case your home becomes unsafe to stay in.
  • If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
  • People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of Civil Defence and emergency services.
  • 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. Flood water is often contaminated and can make you sick.

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