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A NZ Defence Force operation was beginning tonight to supply Wairoa in New Zealand’s North Island with food and water after being cut off by Cyclone Gabrielle floodwaters.

A rapid relief team flown in by the airforce was organising a drop of bottled water for 3000 people from a helicopter this evening.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the team was also providing BBQ meals for a similar number of people, and would provide 300 to 500 food packages in the morning.

They will only stop cooking if they run out of people to feed or run out of food, Hipkins said

Three airforce helicopters also carried out evacuations in Hawke’s Bay today.

The army has deployed a logistics support team of 100 people and 30 vehicles to Hawke’s Bay, while the air force today surveyed damage along the East Coast.

The HMNZS Manawanui was expected to arrive at first light in Gisborne, delivering water supplies to small communities on its way.

Water treatment plant
The Defence Force will also take a water treatment plant to Wairoa, with the HMNZS Te Mana delivering further drinking water.

NZDF now has more than 700 people involved in relief efforts, along with four aircraft, seven helicopters, two ships and 58 trucks.

MetService said heavy rain would continue to hit central New Zealand until Thursday with high waves along East Coast.

Earlier, Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence reported Wairoa (pop. 8000) had been completely cut off overnight and had only one day worth of food and enough drinking water for two days.

In a statement, the Civil Defence branch said the town had lost lifelines to Napier and Gisborne, including power, phones, internet and roads.

A National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) representative was on route to Wairoa via helicopter from Napier overnight to support the team and the response effort.

With power restored to most of Wairoa by 5pm, with the exception of Mahia/Tuai, the key concern for the welfare of the community was be dwindling food and water supplies, Civil Defence said.

Relying on air supplies
Controller Liz Lambert said that with the loss of roads, they would be relying on supplies coming in by air.

“Wairoa only has one day’s worth of food, and enough drinking water for two days. We have made a request to NEMA for enough food and water to supply the district for seven days.”

Much of Hawke’s Bay remained flooded as the region braced for continued rain, Civil Defence said.

Evacuations in the wider Hawke’s Bay on Tuesday took place in Ruataniwha, Waihirere and Ormond Rd, Haumoana, Eskdale, Taradale, Porangahau village, Waipawa township, Waipukura, Awatoto, Te Awa, Brookfield and Wairoa.

Police and FENZ have carried out numerous rescues and continue to respond to stranded residents, according to Civil Defence.

Evacuation Centres were activated at Taihoa Marae, War Memorial Hall and Presbyterian Hall. An Evacuation Centre in Nuhaka has been established at the Mormon Church.

Evacuation centres are in operation in Central Hawke’s Bay, Hastings, Napier and Wairoa with additional sites being added as required.

Power outages
In Hastings and Napier, the cause of power outages has been linked to the flooding of the Redclyffe substation causing the Transpower network to go down, Civil Defence said.

“Unison reported outages for 60,000 customers across Hastings, Havelock North, Napier, north along east coast to Tūtira and south to Waimārama. It is expected to take some time before power is fully restored across the region.

A number of the region’s cell towers are being operated on battery supply allowing some network coverage although this is still intermittent. Mobile communications are still out in Wairoa with response teams relying on radio and FENZ communicating via satellite.

A number of bridges remain impassable and there is still no access between Hastings and Napier.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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