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15 December 2011

Flash Flood in New Zealand on Wednesday, 14 December, 2011 at 09:04 (09:04 AM) UTC.

Image: Google Maps (Click on image for larger view.)

A state of emergency has been declared in the Nelson-Tasman region after a day of torrential rain caused widespread flooding. Civil Defence is advising people to keep a watch on water levels and to be prepared to evacuate if necessary on Wednesday night. Heavy rain continues to fall across the top of the South Island, with at least 330 millimetres recorded in the ranges inland from Golden Bay since Tuesday afternoon. The council's public information officer, Chris Choat, says declaring a state of emergency will give police and Civil Defence the powers needed to tackle any further problems. The Maitai River in Nelson has overflowed, closing streets and coming within metres of some houses - although there have been no evacuations reported. In Nelson, emergency services are expecting to tackle land slips in hilly suburbs. The rain has caused the ground in many areas to become saturated and more slips are expected on vulnerable slopes in the city and eastern Golden Bay.

Waters are expected to peak about 2am on Thursday, Civil Defence says. Several roads in the region are closed, and drivers are being told to take extreme care. MetService forecaster Andy Downs says the rain is not expected to ease until Thursday lunchtime, by which time the rainfall will have reached severe levels. Police on Wednesday were called out to rescue two men who clung to a tree after being swept away in the swollen Maitai River. Sergeant Steve Savage says the pair were out looking at the fast-flowing river when one of them went in and was carried away and his friend went in to help. Mr Savage says the men climbed a poplar tree and had to wait for more than an hour to be rescued by a Nelson surf club inflatable. He says people should stay at home and away from floodwaters.