When the met service forecast 600 mm of rain I thought that it was a mistake. We are used to heavy rain warnings of 150 mm, we get concerned when they forecast 250 mm but 600 mm? That morning the rain began to fall, puddles formed and drains started to over flow. The rain kept falling. The grocery order arrived and Scotty the driver looked like a ghost - he had just driven over the Wanganui bridge where he could see the bridge moving as the pressure waves battered his truck. He was the last person accross before the bridge failed.
Diverting the river to allow repairs to start
Under the bridge was a fibre optic cable that is the communications link between South Westland and the rest of the world. When the bridge went this cable broke and we had no phones, cell phones or internet. We found out what had happened when a tour bus stopped outside and after that pandemonium broke out at the hotel with tourists and locals stopping to find out what was happening. The hotel filled up fast, we found some board games and everyone drank coffee and waited for news.
By the next morning it was obvious that it would take a week or so to fix the bridge and most people decided to drive back via Wanaka - a trip of 10-15 hours. The hotel emptied as fast as it had filled up and the town of Hari Hari became eerily quiet with almost no traffic on the road at all.
The missing bit of bridge
Our first load of supplies got dropped accross the river by helicopter two days later - Scotty was still stranded on the south side of the river so he took milk and veges down to the shops and hotels between Hari Hari and Haast before heading back home to Greymouth. Clean linen was flown across the river, arriving on the back of a roading truck. Much to the relief of farmers the milk tankers drove from Hokitika to Hari Hari the long way, it took 3 days to collect all 1.3 million litres of milk and take it to Invercargill for processing. The town is getting short of fuel now but everything else is strangely normal.
It has been awesome to see how everyone has pulled together to give life a sembalance of normality, often giving up their time or working extra long hours to make things happen. In an odd way it is fantastic to be a part of the drama, but I am looking forward to the reopening of the bridge.
In early 2012 Penny & Nairn moved from central Wellington to South Westland. Welcome to the record of their adventures.