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Devastating floods in Bay of Plenty

It’s estimated that 70% of homes in Edgecumbe in the Bay of Plenty have been affected by torrential rain and severe flooding, with the worst hit houses in low-lying areas expected to be condemned. When the Rangitāiki River burst a bank last week and inundated the town, Edgecumbe was evacuated and a state of emergency was declared.

Many residents cannot return to live in their homes, due to a lack of electricity, water and working sewerage systems. Whakatane district council Chief Executive Marty Grenfell said progress would be slow and that “some people will never able to go back and live in their homes. The town is not safe and it won’t be safe for some time.”

EastPack and Fonterra are the biggest employers in the town of 1638 people and are currently assessing their operations in the area, with some employees returning to work at Eastpack this week. About 50 dairy farms and several Kiwifruit orchards in Edgecumbe have also been affected by the floods.

Helping those in need

However, there’s just something about Kiwis that makes you really proud, says Chris Quin, CEO, Foodstuffs North Island. “So many people have been badly affected by the cataclysmic flooding through Edgecumbe and surrounding areas. We’ve all seen the devastation and heard amazing tales of people putting themselves at risk. What we don’t always see, however, is how ordinary people make extraordinary little decisions to help others.

“While our PAK’nSAVE and New World owners in the area are helping out where they can with supplies for the welfare teams supporting Edgecumbe’s refugees, what’s blown us away is how others have supported some of our staff.

“One of our Produce Managers and his teenage son have lost absolutely everything. His manager took him into Kmart in Whakatane to stock up on clean clothes and essential supplies – only to be told that it was all taken care of, there was no need to pay.

“It’s stuff like this that makes me proud to be a Kiwi and thankful, that in our darkest moments there’s always someone, a company or an organisation which is ready and willing to step up. It’s bloody genius.

“Kia kaha to all those who are supporting our people in the Bay of Plenty. Thank you,” says Quin.

Meanwhile, the district health board has also promised free pharmaceuticals and GP visits for displaced residents, and counsellors will be on hand at the Whakatane war memorial hall. It is expected that it will take at least two weeks for the flood waters to recede.

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