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Massive flooding in Eastern Bay of Plenty has destroyed homes and businesses, leaving many people homeless and forcing many more to evacuate.
With more bad weather on the way, as Cyclone Cook moves closer, Red Cross is preparing for further damage.
Andrew McKie New Zealand Red Cross National Disaster Management Officer says for many people the disaster is just beginning as the impact of the flood on their homes and livelihoods becomes clear, and as they brace for Cyclone Cook.
“This was a significant flood and combined with the impact of the incoming cyclone, people are going to need our help. The disaster isn’t over when the floodwaters recede or when the cyclone has passed, for many this will just be the start of a really tough time.
“We have committed $50,000 to a response and recovery fund for the region, but we also need public support to help people get back on their feet and into their homes. At this stage, funds raised will be used to provide clean-up materials for homes and psychological support, but that will be just the start, there is going to be a lot of ongoing need.”
One of the lucky ones
Donna Aramoana is one of the lucky ones. While several houses in her street were flooded by last week's deluge, her home near the river in Whakatane escaped unscathed.
On her days off and in between her shifts, Donna has been volunteering at the Whakatane Civil Defence Centre, where organisations like Red Cross are providing support to affected residents.
Donna's been welcoming people to the centre, many of them family and friends from Edgecumbe, one of the worst-hit areas. She's a friendly face for those families who have lost everything or are unable to return home.
"People are crying. I saw a couple just drop to their knees, just devastated," she says.
Red Cross Disaster Welfare and Support Teams (DWST) have been assisting in Civil Defence Centres and providing support to evacuated people since the flooding began.
Red Cross DWST team member, Nicky van Praagh was with families returning to their Edgecumbe homes for the first time today.
"It was surreal. Houses had sunk, some were obviously moved. The engineer told us that the back bone of the house had broken - you couldn't go in because it was too unstable," she says.
For the families returning to their destroyed homes, the damage can be a shock. Red Cross teams are there to provide psychosocial support and help them through.
"There was an older man who was all alone. He got to his home - it had the big 'no go' on it. He was just standing there, looking at it, just really overwhelmed by the damage.
How to donate
People can donate to Red Cross’ Bay of Plenty Floods Appeal at redcross.org.nz/donate, with all funds raised to go towards responding to the disaster and supporting the affected community.
For other ways to donate, go to our Payment Options.