East Coast flood damage is greater than predicted, according to a member of parliament.

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Hatea-a-Rangi School was fill of silt and water this morning after yesterday’s floods.
Yesterday’s flood-swollen rivers in Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne, brought back memories of Cyclone Bola’s devastation in 1988, according to East Coast MP Kiri Allan.

Hatea-a-Rangi School was buried in silt and water this morning as a result of yesterday’s rainfall. Mni Dunlop/RNZ is the photographer.

This morning, Allan told a gathering of around 50 people at Tokomaru Bay that the devastation caused by yesterday’s severe rain and floods was greater than she had imagined.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done up there, and particularly feeling for the kids at the kura, their teachers, that’s going to be a long period – you’re all at the forefront of our mind,” Allan said.

“I’ve spoken with a number of folks who remember it’s kind of like the rivers were getting up to Bola levels… that would’ve caused some degree of anxiety.”

Tokomaru’s community of about 500 people was one of the worst hit by yesterday’s flooding.

Gisborne District Council said four families were forced to evacuate their flooded homes.

Lillian Te Hau-Ward, who led today’s meeting to coordinate cleanup efforts, said crews were clearing flood damage at beaches and at Mangahauini River.

Tairāwhiti Civil Defence manager Ben Green said the region was under a civil defence emergency.

“By… mid-afternoon, we’ll have a very good picture in terms of what we actually have here,” Green said.

“What I’d be quite keen with… is getting a sense of any welfare requirements – I’ll be connecting with our key agencies and government agencies for that, and we can offer you support.”

He said this would include help with shelter, food and critical needs.

Hatea-a-Rangi School in Tokomaru Bay was shut after the flooding, as water streamed through classrooms.

Hatea-a-Rangi School principal Karla Kohatu says the school’s hopes and dreams were washed out into the ocean.

Hatea-a-Rangi School principal Karla Kohatu. Photo: Māni Dunlop/RNZ

According school Principal Karla Kohatu, “a lot of our dreams, hopes and aspirations being washed out to the ocean with the torrent.”

According to the council, the entire amount of the damage caused by the weekend’s torrential rains will not be known until later this week.

Kevin Pewhairangi and his whnau in Tokomaru Bay were cleaning up the family’s more than 100-year-old homestead. The floods wrecked the garage, and people were scrambling to clear up the muck and sludge before further bad weather arrived.

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The home has been the whānau homestead for more than 60 years and Pewhairangi said everyone was mucking in.

“This is how our hapū works – you just band together. A lot [of people] from town has come back to help. It’s just one of those things you have to do.”

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the cleanup was well under way.

“We ask for people to keep safe, look out for each other and take care on our roads,” Stoltz said.

Up to 200mm of rain was recorded north of Ruatōria yesterday.

State Highway 35 was closed because of severe flooding, but reopened north and south of Tokomaru Bay.

Contractors were working to clear the highway south of Lottin Point Road, which was reopened to one lane.

Several rural roads were closed or accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only, and slips and washouts continued to be reported.

More rain is expected to fall south of Gisborne between 6 p.m. tonight and 10 a.m. tomorrow. Rainfall of up to 110mm was anticipated south of Muriwai and in the hills of Wairoa District.

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The MetService predicts that the weather in Auckland, Gisborne, and the East Coast will improve.

According to MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris, Auckland should experience stable weather this afternoon and for the next few days.

Heavy rain warnings are still in effect for Gisborne south of Muriwai and the Wairoa hills until tomorrow morning, but it should clear up by the afternoon.

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