Saturday 20th of June 2015 saw one month’s worth of rain fall on Wanganui in 24 hours without any prior warning. By midnight the surging Whanganui River had breached its banks, gushing floodwaters into Wanganui’s CBD causing the worst flooding on record and along with it, utter devastation and loss.
As a result, Wanganui was placed into a state of emergency with the army brought in to assist in the evacuation of approximately 100 households, mostly on the eastern banks of the Whanganui River, with hundreds more voluntarily evacuating.
Two weeks later, the state of emergency has been lifted, the water has gone… but the devastation remains! This is when the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) were called in to provide assistance in the clean-up of residents’ homes along Anzac Parade, and business premises along the riverbank.
Two teams were deployed; while one team set to work shoveling silt, the second team based themselves at Kowhai Park on Anzac Parade with a BBQ serving hamburgers, hashbrowns and salad to residents and volunteers involved in the cleanup, followed by hot coffee and cake.
This was clearly a much appreciated break in the back-breaking labor, with over 200 hamburgers consumed and countless heartfelt thanks from those affected. For the last 2 weeks we cannot imagine the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into trying to resurrect what they can from their their belongings, and for some, trying to get their homes back to a livable state. Others are still awaiting the dreaded stamp from council as to whether their home has been ‘condemned’, or ‘structural damage’ – determining where to from here.
Knowing RRT had made a difference was the moment one dear 90 year old lady who having gone out for the day for a much needed break from her plight, returned home a few hours later, walked slowly down her driveway with her hands up to her mouth, then threw her arms around an RRT volunteer, weeping tears of joy and absolute gratitude in utter disbelief of the transformation on her property.