Helicopter sent to find trapped West Coast motorists

A helicopter has been deployed by Civil Defence to locate a group of motorists on the West Coast between Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.

The motorists are stuck in the middle of a road closure due to gale-force winds and falling trees.

Police and West Coast Civil Defence have responded to reports of several motorists struck on State Highway 6 between Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.

The helicopter was being sent to find the exact location of the motorists and the number of cars stuck, West Coast Civil Defence spokesman Mark Crowe said.

Roading contractors from NZTA were working from either side of SH6 to clear the road and allow the motorists a way out, he said.

NZTA closed SH 6 from Ross to Makarora at 10.30am and it was expected to be closed until further notice.

The call adds to the woes of the West Coast which is being pelted by the power of ex-tropical cyclone Fehi.

A State of Emergency was declared for the Buller District on Thursday afternoon.

Nine palliative and aged care patients were evacuated from their facility in Buller due to flooding concerns.

The West Coast District Health Board says they're being moved from the Buller Health Facility due to today's heavy rain, and the expected impact of the king tide due shortly after midnight.

In Hokitika, some residents had been advised they could be without power for up to 48 hours.

Transpower said its crews were still assessing the extent of the storm damage to transmission lines supplying the area but the extreme weather conditions, combined with access issues getting to site, were making it difficult to establish the extent and cause of the damage.

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