In the early hours of a rain-drenched Sunday morning, a significant landslide struck State Highway 2, just south of Wairoa, New Zealand. The deadly slip claimed one life and left another individual grievously injured. The incident, which covered both lanes of the highway, led to an overnight closure that continued into the day, despite the tireless efforts of contractors to clear the debris.
Geotechnical Assessment Dictates Continued Closure
An in-depth geotechnical assessment revealed that more work was necessary to guarantee the safety of travellers, thus leading to the decision to keep the highway closed for longer. Martin Colditz, Waka Kotahi system manager for Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, underscored the significance of the closure for road user safety.
Weather Conditions Worsen Situation
The Gisborne region, along with parts of Hawke's Bay, were battered by heavy rainfall over the weekend, with metrics showing between 100 to 150 millimeters of rain in most ranges of the Gisborne District since Friday. Wairoa itself received over 100mm of rain, triggering flooding and multiple landslides on the roads. Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz described the situation as challenging, highlighting the dejecting impact on the teams tasked with road and infrastructure repairs.
Adverse Weather Conditions Prompt Road Closures and Evacuations
As a result of the harsh weather conditions, at least 20 roads were closed in the Gisborne and Wairoa districts. The forecast for the Tairawhiti and Wairoa districts predicts up to 100 millimeters of additional rain, and rain warnings are in place, with minor flooding already observed. Civil Defence has urged residents to check on neighbours and family. The situation poses additional stress for farmers who are bracing for a hot, dry El Niño summer following Cyclone Gabrielle. Evacuations have taken place, and state highways remain closed as residents of Tai Rāwhiti and Hawke's Bay grapple with the aftermath of the relentless rain.