Woman swept from tree near falls

A woman remains missing after a number of party-goers were swept into a flooded river in Northland early this morning.

Far North emergency services were scrambled to search for the woman after she got caught in Waitangi River flood waters about 6am this morning, police said.

"The search is being made by land, river, sea and air. Several other people were caught in vehicles by flood water and have been rescued by emergency services. Other residents are in the process of being rescued from flooded dwellings."

A local welfare centre was set up for affected residents at the Bledisloe Hall in Haruru, police said.

Paihia resident Karee Owen wrote on her Facebook page; "There was a girl that tried to go to her car and people jumped in to save her. We think there are four of them missing at the moment".

"Found everybody except for one girl," she later wrote.

In a video posted to her Facebook page, Ms Owen said they were surrounded by water and trying desperately to get to higher ground.

In the video, Ms Owen walks around a balcony on the saturated property, commenting on the devastation surrounding her.

"As daylight comes, you can see that we're completely surrounded by water. Everyone's just sheltering up here on the structure as best as they can.

"There's a guy there, he's still waiting to be rescued, we've seen them rescue someone from the paddock - we're hoping it's Damian or the girl...Spooney's still on top of the shed," she said.

"Look how fast the water's moving," Ms Owen later commented.

An Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter spokesman said their crew were called to rescue a number of people who had been at a party in Pahia early this morning before getting swept into the river.

A crewman who attended the rescue said they were stood down around midday after rescuing a man and a dog off a roof.

"He had managed to escape flood waters and get up onto the roof with his dog and had been there for some hours.

"We're under the understanding that there's still one missing."

"We were stood down by incident control. They had additional search aircraft in the area."

There was an "awful lot of water" which had submerged cars and forced the closure of roads, the crewman said.

A police northern communications centre spokesman said a number of people had been rescued, however they were still searching for the missing woman.

Northern Fire Communications shift manager Paul Radden said they were assisting people at a property which had been flooded due to a burst river bank.

"I believe we've rescued one and there's one more to rescue."

They had now left the scene, however a Northland police search and rescue crew were still looking for the missing woman, Mr Radden said.

Coastguard Northern Region spokeswoman Georgie Smith said they received a call from Northland Fire Service around 6.30am to assist in finding a woman who had been swept from a tree near the falls.

The Coastguard Bay Rescue vessel searched the mouth of the Waitangi River for the woman, however conditions were treacherous.

The current was "pumping" at about 20 knots and their rescue vessel was unable to get under a bridge further up the river due to a high tide, large amounts of debris and flood waters, she said. They too were later stood down.


- By Brendan Manning of APNZ


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