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Moving into a new and unfamiliar neighbourhood can be daunting – and having destructive weather hit your community three days after arriving does not help.
“It had been raining during the morning, but around lunchtime, the rain got really hard and our roof and gutters stopped holding the amount of water coming through,” shares Kere Pomana, a Napier resident who experienced the wild weather that hit Hawke’s Bay in November.
Kere and her two children stayed in their new home to wait the bad weather out. From their windows overlooking some parts of the city, they could see the severity of the situation unfold.
“It was a bit scary watching over and seeing everyone running around, trying to evacuate from their houses so fast. We didn’t immediately realise it was flooding down below,” she says.
With the rain not showing any signs of easing up, Kere says that she got a bit worried.
“I had to ensure that I was nice and calm to keep the kids calm,” she says.
The following morning, the sun was shining bright, bringing the aftermath of the wild weather into plain view. The first order of business for Kere was to get in touch with her whānau.
“I called close family and friends to make sure everyone was okay. There were also phone calls from people making sure that we were okay,” she says.
A concerned neighbour, who she hadn’t met before, also came by their house to check up on them.
She says: “Our neighbour from down the way came up and let us know that there was a slip at the bottom of our driveway, so we’re effectively locked in. He also told us that if we needed to evacuate, we should go up the hill and not down because we had a slip down there.”
After seeing the slips herself, Kere realised that she would not be able to drive anywhere any time soon. Anticipating that they may remain "stuck" for a while, she went into town with one of her children to get some supplies, which they had to carry for two kilometres uphill on a slippery road.
“Around town, it was stony and muddy, and pumice and sand was all over the place. The poor shops. It was quite surreal walking to town and back,” she shares.
A united community thrives amid adversity
Back in Kere’s new neighbourhood, people were working together to clean up.
“Everyone was out there with their shovels, shovelling away and asking each other if they’re alright," she shares.
For someone new to the neighbourhood, Kere feels lucky to know that she has come into a nice community – a place filled with kind people keeping an eye out on each other.
It is this sense of community that led New Zealand Red Cross disaster response volunteers to Kere’s doorsteps. One of the teams conducting welfare checks in the area heard about Kere's situation from a concerned neighbour.
“I’d say that the intervention of Red Cross was lifesaving, because Red Cross was able to get up here to connect me with the right agency to get us a food parcel. Since we just moved in, we haven’t even done our first proper house shop. It’s a bit too much to carry up here. We’re just running on what we got in our fridge and that’s not much,” Kere explains.
Empowering people by providing them relevant and timely information following a crisis is a form of aid by itself, and this is why our disaster response volunteers’ welfare checks are crucial.
Confirming this, Kere says: “On Facebook, there are so many pages to look on. You just don’t know who to go to ask what, so it was good that they said a lot of it can be streamlined through them (the disaster response volunteers). That was good to know.”
Red Cross’ response to Napier flooding
New Zealand Red Cross’ Disaster Welfare and Support Teams (DWSTs) were quickly on the ground during the waking hours of the flood, helping transport people to safety and providing the people affected access to their immediate needs.
Around 30 disaster response volunteers had been out and about in the community for a couple of weeks, knocking on people’s doors, conducting welfare checks and providing essential emotional and psychosocial support to people experiencing distress.
New Zealand Red Cross’ DWSTs consist of committed volunteers from across Aotearoa New Zealand who are experienced at responding to emergencies and providing Psychological First Aid to people in crisis. They are equipped with proper knowledge and skills that are kept up to date through regular training all year round through the generous support of all our regular donors.