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'Grateful to be alive': Flood victims appreciative of support from evacuation centres

Dale Ramshaw, Red Cross northern region emergency response officer at evac centre in Kelston
Red Cross northern region emergency officer Dale Ramshaw. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Shocked and exhausted people are continuing to arrive at Auckland evacuation centres as reality sinks in.

Many had spent the night in cars or with neighbours after intense flooding hit the city, filling their homes with water and making many fear for their lives.

Some were realising they needed a longer term solution, with more turning up to the West Auckland evacuation centre at St Leonard's today.

Māngere woman Mele, who had to suddenly flee her house with her elderly parents and nieces after water began washing in, was one of them.

She had initially tried to gather possessions but soon realised the water was coming in too fast.

It rapidly reached chest height.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni at the Civil Defence Centre set up in Saint Leonard's Road School in Kelston, on 28 January, 2023.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni has been among those offering some comfort. Photo: RNZ/ Rowan Quinn

"When we came to leave ... it was like swimming through the water," she said.

In Te Atatū, Karreyanne was most worried about getting her grandmother and three young cousins out as the water reached her knees and toys and possessions started floating.

They fled with the family dog and those with her at the centre have been given their own classroom, with a four month old baby coming to join them.

She said the people at the evacuation centre had been amazing, offering food, a shower and accommodation.

"Coming straight from a crisis and into this, they were very welcoming ... they're so sweet."

Most people were staying in the school hall, with stretcher beds in one half, with children playing with toys brought in by members of the community.

Harland Murray, right, and Brady Forrest cook up some kai at the Kelston evacuation centre
Harland Murray, right, and Brady Forrest cook up some kai at the Kelston evacuation centre. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Ministry of Social Development representatives were on site, along with the Red Cross, the navy, police, Auckland Council and volunteers.

The Red Cross' northern region emergency officer Dale Ramshaw was trying to rearrange the beds to make the space as welcoming as possible.

"Daylight's happened, people are realising how bad their situation is, and landlords etc are coming back to them and they don't know where they're going to be staying," she said.

The centre was staying open until further notice.

Newly minted Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni was back in the role of local MP, helping at the centre in her home patch from late last night.

People had been coming in after some horrific experiences, she said.

"Despite what they've gone through and the fact that they're in an evacuation centre, many are just grateful to be alive because they really did feel their lives were at risk," she said.

Former rugby stars Sir Michael Jones, Ofisa Tonu'u and Eroni Clarke were part of a huge turnout from the community.

So many people arrived with blankets, clothes, food and more - that the Red Cross has now told them to stop.

They had to have space for those who were staying there.

The Fono medical centre was setting up a clinic in a classroom to help those who had to leave vital medications behind.

The Plymouth Brethren Church arrived with its rapid response team - cooking up bacon and eggs in a mobile truck that was always ready to go, and a Krispy Kreme truck arrived with several eight-dozen boxes of donuts.