Tauira Martin Visser who lost all
With floodwaters swamping his Whanganui home, Martin Visser had little time to consider this: what would you grab if disaster was about to strike?
Martin’s hometown was under siege from an immense, torrential downpour that saw the Whanganui River burst its banks.
Scene from the Whanganui Chronicle of the main street flooded by rising water from the Whanganui River
There was widespread flooding that cut power to homes, caused major slips and road closures and forced at least 100 people in the area to evacuate.
Described as a one in 85-year event, the flooding was the worst ever recorded in Whanganui with the cost of the damage likely to be much greater than the lower North Island flooding of 2004 that led to more than $140 million in insurance claims.
Images from NASA of the Whanganui district.
It was late on the night of June 20 when Martin, who studies Te Ara Reo Māori in Whanganui, heard a knock at the door.
“It was about 11pm and the police came. They just said “you have to get out - right now”,” said Martin, a Whanganui District Councillor.
Martin’s home on Willis St was on relatively high ground but floodwaters were lapping at the front door.
By the time the police arrived to order him out, the waters were seeping inside.
Martin had little time to act taking a laptop and a work iPad and little else - not realising then that it could be several months before he can return to stay.
“The floodwaters came up to about thigh high in the house and because all your valuables are basically on the floor everything gets affected,” said Martin.
“We managed later to save some hardwood furniture and to get a good portion of clothes out but everything else in terms of photos, records… that’s all gone.”
“We just didn’t expect it. If we had put our things on beds they still would have got flooded. The whiteware is stuffed, the tv is stuffed, we lost a lot.”
Martin, who spent the next three days manning the phones at the Whanganui District Council where he took dozens of civil defence related calls, said one thing he didn’t grab from his home were his TARM class notes.
He’s hoping his classmates may be able to help him out.
“I decided to learn te reo Māori because I always felt a bit of a fraud having grown up in Putiki and not learning the language.”
Whanganui Regional Operations Manager Charlotte Turia said Te Wānanga o Aotearoa were working in consultation with Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority to provide food, blankets, candles and other items to help those affected by the flooding.
Charlotte said a message board had been set up for tauira and they have also established a clothing centre and are welcoming donations.
“If every tauira donates two items of clothing or kai this would be a huge contribution to others,” she said.
If you would like to donate you can drop off items at the Koha shed 65 Hakeke Street, West End side of building, Old UCoL Building, Whanganui or contact Sheron Sunex - 0274040240 or Rochelle Palamountain - 0274040240 for more details