A mother and her two children have lost everything after a creek burst its banks, sending a wall of water crashing through their rented farmhouse as severe flooding struck South Canterbury.
The family managed to escape their flooded home through chest-deep water, with the help of a daring tractor rescue, at Clandeboye near Temuka.
Rebecca Emmerson lived at the farmhouse with her daughter Sophie, 13, and her son Harry, 11. They had recently moved into the area and did not know many people.
The details of their dramatic escape emerged as the local community rallied around Emmerson, including offers of food and vouchers.
As the torrent of water rose to chest height during Monday’s widespread flooding, rescuers on a tractor helped the family to safety. They then used washing baskets and plastic bags to ferry precious possessions, including a computer and a cat, holding them clear of the floodwaters above their head.
“Rebecca’s house won’t be liveable for many months,” said Jessica Bowan, who owns the three-bedroom property.
“I would say all the wall linings and carpet and everything will need to be ripped up and the walls taken out to dry everything out because at this time of the year it is not going to dry as fast.”
The surge of water that caused the flood through the property came down the Orari River that had burst its banks and leaked onto Coopers Creek on Monday morning following torrential rain.
The water came up so high it was at chest level in the driveway when Bowan and her husband James rushed to the Emmerson family’s rescue.
“My husband drove past and could see some water coming down the road so he did a loop, and it wasn’t very long and he went back in and said you need to get out now.
“He got Rebecca and her daughter out and brought them down to our house and obviously, Rebecca was very upset,” she said.
Bowan said Emmerson was worried about her cat, her camera and her computer, as she works as a photographer.
‘Which obviously had all her photos that she has taken over the years on it.”
The Bowans went back down the road on the tractor.
“Because the water was too high we went back into the house and with my washing baskets and supermarket bags and a suitcase, tried to grab everything we could.”
When they got in the door they found the stick vacuum cleaner floating down the hall.
“Shoes were just floating through the house.”
The water was halfway up the fireplace and lapping at the window sills and along the couches
“We got the cat out, found that first, it was hiding under the couch,” she said.
Bowan and James grabbed the computer, camera and a couple of things for the two children.
“The daughter wanted her school uniform of all things and her laptop, so we managed to grab that.”
Temuka local residents are now pitching in to help out the Emmerson family.
“We put it on the local Buy, Sell pages, if anyone wanted to donate meals or basic things or grocery vouchers, fuel vouchers and things to keep her going. She has had some meals.”
Locals have also donated cash to keep Emmerson and the children going for the next few days to buy supplies like underwear, toothbrushes and pyjamas. The cat has been put in a cattery.
Bowan said Emmerson been offered “lots of homeware things” – but at this point the family did not have a home to put them in yet.
They family had insurance, “but we probably are never insured for as much as we think we are going to need.”
The Emmersons are staying with friends at the moment and it could be months before they will get back to the badly damaged farm cottage.
A massive clean up has now begun across the wider Canterbury region after a one-in-100 year weather event dumped torrential rain, causing rivers to burst their banks and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes.
Ashburton’s main bridge reopened to “light traffic” last night, allowing crucial supplies to get through.
Forecasters say weather conditions have mostly eased, but rivers will remain swollen for some time and floodwaters will take time to recede.
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