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A source told the New Zealand Herald that the woman, Rejoice Steadfast, had been watching the raging Haupiri River yesterday with family members when the bank collapsed and she fell in the water.
"It is an absolute tragedy," they said.
Rejoice Steadfast is the daughter-in-law of Gloriavale secretary and treasurer Fervent Steadfast.
The Haupiri River flows by the remote Christian community in the Grey District.
Police this morning said a Search and Rescue team had recovered her body at 8am. The search had resumed after being stood down for the night shortly before 11pm.
Her death has been referred to the coroner.
The wild weather hammered the West Coast, sweeping a bridge away and trapping dozens of Dunedin high school pupils in a tramping hut.
Parts of the Coast received over half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours, with more rain and even snow on the way in the South Island.
The headwaters of the Hokitika, Wahio and Haast rivers are receding after parts of the ranges received more than half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours, but many roads were closed overnight.
Westland District Council Mayor Bruce Smith said the weather had settled down a bit this morning, with light rain and receding rivers.
Hokitika River peaked at about 1am at the second highest level in 50 years, Smith said.
"Up at Hokitika gorge it was frightening, there was a lot of water coming through.
"We were concerned about the flood wall at Hokitika [town] but it held tight."
The biggest problem was the Goat Creek Bridge east of Otira, which had been completely eaten away by the swollen Otira River.
"The bank has washed out and the bridge is twisted, it looks pretty serious."
State Highway 73 between Jacksons and Springfield was also closed, as well as SH6 from Hokitika to Fox Glacier and several local roads due to surface flooding.
Smith said contractors were already getting stuck into clearing slips along the West Coast roads but Goat Creek Bridge would likely take much longer.
Meanwhile a party of Otago Boys' High School pupils are trapped in a hut in the Mt Aspiring National Park after heavy rain rendered a creek impassable.
Deputy rector Mark Hooper said the group of about 25 year 9 pupils were scheduled to return on Thursday but the creek rose rapidly and became too high to cross.
All parents had been informed and there was ample food in the hut in the Matukituki Valley, he said.
They hoped to walk out today provided the river levels drop.
Power is cut off to South Westland south of Bullock Creek, and South Westland Area School at Hari Hari will remain closed this morning.
A severe weather warning remains in place for parts of south and central New Zealand today.
MetService meteorologist Nick Zachar said some weather stations had recorded over half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours.
Ivory Glacier on the West Coast topped the charts at 550mm, while many other areas in the ranges received similar amounts. That is more rain than Auckland has had in the past four months.
While the weather was on an easing trend there was still plenty to come.
"We are still seeing quite a bit of rain about Hokitika and south of there, some stations on the West Coast have had 40mm an hour, and heavy snow is starting to fall in the Canterbury high country. Mt Cook Village is starting to see some decent snowfall," Zachar said."
"This is all adding to river levels and increasing the risk of flooding and slips."
Road snow warnings were in place for many South Island alpine passes this morning. Arthur's Pass (SH73) could see as much as 12cm of snow, Porters Pass (SH73) 15cm, Lindis Pass (SH8) 8cm and the Crown Range Rd a light dusting.
In Dunedin, 30mm of rain fell yesterday from 5am. In Invercargill, 27.4mm of rain fell through the day until it shifted north in the afternoon. Balclutha got 44m yesterday, Queenstown received 21mm and Wanaka 19.5mm. Oamaru had only received 2mm by yesterday afternoon, but in the evening and carrying on into this morning rain was still falling and was expected to increase, Mr Hines said.
The rest of the east coast was expected to experience increasing rain with heavy rain watches for Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson in place today.
The weekend was looking to be "significantly improved" after another wet, cold day today.