Canterbury flooding: Delays for supermarket deliveries in the South Island

Residents in the lower South Island will see gaps in supermarket shelves today as authorities work to reopen delivery routes overwhelmed by record rain.

The rare “red warning” issued by MetService for Canterbury’s extreme weather was lifted last night and MetService forecaster Aiden Pyselman said skies were expected to clear over the province this evening.

From Friday to yesterday morning a massive 545mm of rain was recorded at Mt Somers in the Canterbury high country, he said.

The region’s main centres — Christchurch (110mm), Ashburton (155mm), and Timaru (105mm) — were inundated over the same period, he said.

The NZ Transport Agency said State Highway 1 closures south of Christchurch through Dunsandel, and at Hinds, south of Ashburton, could both be cleared by this afternoon.

However, shoppers at Foodstuffs stores could see some empty shelves south of Ashburton today, head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird said.

The company faced “delivery challenges” to southern stores due to the road closures in the region.

“Customers might see some gaps on shelves until our trucks can get through to make deliveries,” Laird said.

“Foodstuffs South Island is well used to dealing with extreme weather events, so we ask all customers to please shop normally to avoid putting unnecessary stress on stores.”

A Countdown spokeswoman said the company was facing similar issues as lower South Island deliveries had been affected by flooding.

Some shelves in the fruit and vegetable section at the Central Dunedin Countdown were empty due to the delivery delays.

The Otago Daily Times is aware cafes and restaurants in the city are also affected by the road closures as suppliers are unable to get products delivered from further north.

The New Zealand Army and crews from the Royal New Zealand Air Force were deployed to help the region as it endured a state of emergency.

As rain eased yesterday, in some parts of the region residents returned home, while in others people were ordered to evacuate as floodwaters continued rising.

The flooding would create a backlog for New Zealand Post that would take the rest of the week to clear, a spokeswoman said.

NZ Post suspended operations across Canterbury.

Staff remained on stand-by to resume work if clearance was given, but all links from the lower South Island to Christchurch and the rest of the country, were blocked, she said.

NZ Post transport services between Dunedin, Invercargill and Central Otago would operate, but all other transport services operating south of Christchurch would be suspended, she said.

KiwiRail South Island operations general manager Mark Heissenbuttel said the line between Timaru and Bluff remained open, but flooding closed the Midland line between Rolleston and Arthur’s Pass, the Main North line between Christchurch and Pines, and the Main South line between Lyttelton and Timaru.

KiwiRail staff would inspect the lines before any decision was made on reopening them, Mr Heissenbuttel said.

State Highway 1 was closed in several places through Mid to South Canterbury, including Temuka to Hinds, where water ran 600mm deep north of the Hinds River bridge, NZTA journey manager Tresca Forrester said.

There was up to 500mm of water over the highway at the Selwyn River yesterday evening, she said.

The driver of a truck died in a crash in Greta Rd/SH1, Greta Valley, police said.

Indications were that a tree fell on to the truck as it was travelling in Greta Rd.

The driver was the single-occupant of the truck.

The road remained closed last night while police examined the crash site and the scene was cleared.

The Waimakariri District Council told residents of low-lying areas of Pines Beach to continue to evacuate before the high tide at 9pm yesterday.

But evacuees were allowed to return to their homes along the Eyre and Ashley Rivers.

The Hurunui District Council said 12 roads and one bridge were closed in the district.

The Selwyn District Council asked residents to make other arrangements if they were unable to return home last night amid widespread road closures.

Widespread flooding closed roads in Christchurch.

The Timaru District Council told residents in the Coopers Creek catchment north of the Orari River to evacuate immediately due to flooding yesterday afternoon.

Civil Defence continued to monitor Ashburton River stopbanks as residents were told to be prepared to evacuate.

A swathe of roads across the district were closed and four bridges were confirmed damaged or unpassable, the council said.

Yesterday morning, 97 of the region’s 292 schools were closed, the Ministry of Education said.

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