James Katte was completely unprepared for the wall of soil and rubbish that barrelled into his Auckland home on Tuesday night.
The former furniture maker and his partner Therese were fretting about torrential rain falling outside their apartment block in Kohimarama, in the city’s inner eastern suburbs.
“The lights flickered and my partner said ‘just in case the power goes out we should get our torches ready’. Then, next minute, soil came crashing in.”
At about 8pm a steep, rain-swollen bank looming over the 11-unit San Remo apartment block collapsed, sending tonnes of soil and rubbish down.
“Our back door was caved in, firemen were crawling around in the mud looking for a missing neighbor.”
Fears for their neighbor were quickly allayed when he was found alive and well, but four apartments including Katte’s were trashed by the landslip.
“I had a chance to pack a few things and then firemen and police told us to get out,” Katte says.
“My front door and windows were completely smashed in, but the killer was the rain washing in dirty soil. It got everywhere. The kitchen, the laundry, the carpet is ruined. “My ground floor is munted.”
The number of natural disasters is on the rise, and Katte’s shock evacuation highlights how ill-prepared many of us would be in an emergency.
Civil Defence’s 2016 Disaster Preparedness Survey shows 25 per cent of homes are prepared for disaster with dwellings stocked regularly refreshed food, water, emergency items and a survival plan.
But Jones’ efforts proved futile against the ferocity of Tuesday’s landslip.
“I had a little bag by the front door with water bottles, raincoat, torches, radio and things,” Jones says. “With the mudslide, that got taken out straight away.”
For thousands of 2000 residents of Edgecumbe in the Bay of Plenty, the coming days, weeks and possibly months will be spent staying with family, friends, or wherever Civil Defence can find a warm, dry bed for them.
The increasing numbers of natural disasters is forcing authorities to rethink the way they house those people displaced by floods and earthquakes. The preparedness survey shows only 25% of homes are prepared for disaster with dwellings stocked regularly refreshed food, water, emergency items and a survival plan.
A Civil Defence spokesman said the large number of post-2016 survey natural disaster events, notably the Kaikoura earthquake, are likely to have acted as a strong motivator for more people to get better prepared.