April 18, 2024
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By RNZ

Six months after the Cyclone Gabrielle, piles of silt are no longer lining the roadside in Puketapu west of Napier.

As heavy equipment from contractors rolls down the road, green shoots have replaced the mud. But some people still await the future amidst the reconstruction.

Puketapu is showing signs of improvement, including the newly reopened Pub.

Emma Tuck, her husband and their children clung desperately to the roofs of their homes as floodwaters surged in the valley just behind Dartmoor Road on February 14.

They had broken their ceiling and climbed through it.

Tuck, her mother Kerry Hamlin and their family decided to stay in Hastings instead of the flat they rented. The two bought water in bottled form and protected plants, among other items that are susceptible to wind.

They were still not ready for the fury that followed.

After a five hour ordeal, Tuck and her partner were saved by helicopter, along with four of their children.

My memory has become more vivid with time. Early on it was like ‘This happened. Now, I’m able to go into greater detail.

Still can’t quite believe that we made it through the roof. Because we had nowhere to go, we prayed for the helicopter to come and save us.

It is not possible to rebuild the house, as it has been classified category 3 and red-stamped as being unsuitable for human habitation.

Tuck told me that her room used to be there, but now it has a huge hole on the front.

She runs her business from Dartmoor Road, which is where she intends to move back if the classification of that road changes.

My kids ask me, “When will Granddad fix up our home, so we can move back into our home?” It breaks my heart.

Tuck, her husband and their children were digging through silt a week after the rooftop incident to recover her belongings.

Hamlin’s apartment was completely destroyed in the flooding.

Hamlin discovered a damaged container 8 km away, which I salvaged some clothing for my granddaughter’s 21st Birthday.”

But I’ve only found a couple of perfume bottles and a bracelet.

It’s as if I had to start over. It hurts some days, and other days, it is like “Oh, well, don’t dwell.”

She also said that she misses her grandchildren because she has to drive a long distance every day.

Hamlin and Tuck re-read their texts from 14 February a couple of days back.

Tuck tried to reassure her family that she is fine when she thought she had run out of time.

People ask me: “Did it feel like your life was over?” My children said to me: ‘Mum can I hold your hands when you die’ Hold my hand, I said.

We thought that we had nowhere to go. There was nowhere else to go. “This is us but we are together.”

The family was worried that heavy items such as logs or containers could smash through the walls of their home.

Tuck revealed in February that they were inspired by their daughter Bayleigh Takie who passed away as a newborn 12 years earlier.

They sang, “You Are My Sunshine” when the water started to rise above the gutters of the house.

Tuck, despite her mood changes, said that she remains strong for her kids.

Olly Midgley, his wife and their home in Puketapu Village were rescued by kayaks.

After the cyclone, the items in the house were still drying.

Midgley’s wife and he are still sorting through the items they have six months after their move to determine what can be salvaged and what needs to go.

The cottage that also suffered damage on the property can be rebuilt on their own land, but they want to get started as soon as possible.

Above the 1.9 metre mark, the walls of the house have been stripped.

Midgley, his wife, and their children had lived for the past five months in a van. They did not plan to remain there long.

Builders could have rushed in and started chipping away pretty fast. We thought that it would take one to two years.

There was a lot to do in the back yard, as water had been sitting there for quite some time. The grass and some trees needed to be replaced.

They could use the rental to work.

The silverware had been outside on the porch for 5 months.

Water blasting is the only way to get rid of it.

The silt does not come out of the dishwashing machine. “You need to waterblast it and polish every piece individually.”

Two vintage cars, stored in Midgley’s garage on 14th February 2014, are still waiting to be organized.

The two cars were both submerged. One was on its way to being fixed, and the other one was just about ready.

Midgley had a better future in Puketapu.

It’s a new day. “We will rebuild here and remain 100 percent,” said he, while showing sympathy to those who were less fortunate.

Tuck and Hamlin and their families lived with the hope that they would be reunited and return home when something happened.

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