Sitting in church on Sunday the 15th of February with sheets of rain falling outside the congregations of the Feilding-Oroua-Marton parish had no inkling that 120mm was to be dumped on Feilding and 250mm on the RuahineRanges.
Civil defense emergencies were declared in Manawatu and Rangitikei just after . Marton and Feilding were isolated and all schools were closed for at least a week. All 10 bridges in Feilding were considered unsafe and large areas of the town and countryside were under a metre or more of silt and water.
Power and hones were cut in Feilding in Marton, businesses were flooded, and Feilding was without water for nearly a week.
Strong community spirit is always evident when a disaster hits, and the extensive flooding was no exception.
Palmerston North Methodist Social Service Centre director Michelle Lee says donations flowed in from throughout the country and many volunteers came forward to offer help to families affected by the floods.
Many homes were destroyed in the flooding, the worst to have hit the region in many decades.
Michelle says throughout the ordeal the centre stayed in contact with the Salvation Army, which coordinated a large part of the relief effort.
Most people have come to the end of the clean-up period, which took a lot of time.
Michelle met with the principal of a small school, which was devastated by the floods and was operating out of temporary premises.
“I met with the principal to look at having a change, loss and grief programme for children. They’ve all been affected. I had to make sure we had enough tutors available to run the programme and we would like to offer that to another school too,” she says.
The programme would be held over several weeks, with a parallel group available to parents and caregivers.
“We help children to cope with these things but if it’s not followed up at home it loses momentum.”
Rev Bill Clifford, of the Rongotea Uniting Parish, says people phoned him from parishes throughout the country and many small efforts were being made to help those affected.
While only a couple of families within his parish were directly hit by the floods, it was “soul destroying” to those involved.
“The parish isn’t doing anything as a project but the individuals have been out helping. Farmers have been out rescuing stock and cutting fences. It’s taking its toll both on the people who have been evicted and on the people who are helping,” he says.
Bill says the clean up was a long process and people were still involved in picking up debris and washing clothes.
He too has offered a change, loss and grief counseling workshop, which will involve people sharing in small groups. It will probably be held some time after Easter, he says.
St Marks Methodist Church in Feilding escaped with just the church garden getting waterlogged. Parishioners provided vegetables to evacuees at the race course. One member of the congregation was up all night visiting and assisting older members, others delivered water to those who found it difficult to get to the tankers and carry water home. People donated clothing and food.
Many pensioners lost everything when their flats were inundated. Many farmers will never recoup their losses. There is a shortage of tradespeople and materials to repair homes.
The greatest need in Feilding now is for money to meet the costs of people who lost so much of their lives. Funds will go to Manchester House, the community service outlet of St Marks.