A group of trampers were this morning airlifted out of the
Kahurangi National Park near Nelson after they were cut off
by a landslip last night.
The party of three met up with another solo tramper and
activated a personal locator beacon late yesterday afternoon
when a large slip prevented them from leaving the Wangapeka
Bad weather prevented the Nelson Marlborough Rescue
Helicopter from making it into the area last night.
About 7am this morning the helicopter was able to fly into
the area and the group was spotted in bush where they had
camped for the night above the slip.
The group was winched to safety and flown out of the bush.
Meanwhile, the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter is back
searching the same area after another personal locator beacon
was activated this morning.
Also at the top of the South Island, eight vehicles stranded
by slips brought down by severe rain in the remote Buller
Gorge were freed after being trapped for more than four
An urgent rescue operation was launched about 6.30pm
yesterday when the cars were cut off by two slips on State
Highway 6, north of Westport.
Heavy machinery was used to clear the roads before the
travellers could drive out about 11pm last night, New Zealand
Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesman Ewart Barnsley said.
SH6, between Inangahua and Westport remains closed today,
with contractors working to clear it by this afternoon.
Severe weather caused widespread flooding and travel chaos on
the West Coast over the last two days, with more than half a
metre of rain in some areas.
The West Coast road via Lewis Pass through Murchison had
closed, forcing travellers to make a seven hour detour around
Blenheim and Kaikoura to get to the east coast of the island.
It was due to reopen late this morning, Mr Ewart said.
Half of the West Coast was cut off when 40m of the 180m-long
single-lane bridge over the Wanganui River, near Harihari,
was washed away yesterday.
Structural engineers are assessing the bridge's damage today,
paying particular attention to what damage the floodwaters
may have done to the piers that support it.
They are also looking at installing a Bailey Bridge for
temporary access to restore the main arterial route, but a
decision won't be made until later today.
"Our contractors are already on site lifting large boulders
into the flood waters to try to divert the Wanganui River
back onto its original course - that will hopefully help us
assess the significant damage caused when the river changed
course earlier, and allow the subsequent work to proceed more
quickly," said NZTA's senior asset manager for the West
Coast, Mark Pinner.
"We are working with the police and local authorities on the
coast to get the highway re-opened as quickly as we can."
The NZTA says there are no other alternative routes in that
region between the West Coast and Wanaka and Queenstown, and
drivers are being diverted east of the Southern Alps.
That journey will have to be made via SH7 and Hamner Springs
because flood waters at Kellys Creek and Yorkeys Creeks have
closed SH73 - the Arthurs Pass link between the West Coast
and Canterbury - overnight.
Mr Pinner says the flooding on SH73 will be reassessed in the
morning before the highway is re-opened.
"The closures will add many hours to a journey and we ask
that people allow plenty of time for their journeys and drive
with patience and care to reach their destinations safely,"
says Mr Pinner.
SH69 Inangahua to Reefton meanwhile has been closed due to
flooding, while SH65, 9km south of O'Sullivans Bridge, has
been reduced to one lane because of a washout.
- Kurt Bayer of APNZ