Northland’s Ash Nayyar says he has been inspired by the human spirit after a dramatic life and death rescue from raging floodwaters in the early-morning darkness.
Nayyar and his wife Mamti clung to the outside of a fire engine as they were rescued in the dark from their Awakino Point home about 4.30am on Tuesday, amidst driving rain and rapidly-rising Awakino River floodwaters.
Kaipara District Council (KDC) councillor Nayyar was up early, meditating, ahead of a planned 5.30am meeting with Northland Regional Council Kaipara councillor John Blackwell, and returning to their mission of the previous day checking on the Dargaville community as Cyclone Gabrielle hit Northland.
“My wife looked out into the darkness from the house and said “You won’t be going anywhere”.
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Angry swirling floodwaters were rapidly rising and coming through their deck about half a metre off the ground. Nayaar rang 111.
“It just happened, overnight. It was life and death,” Nayyar said on Thursday.
The fire engine, loaded with half a dozen people clinging to its outside, drove along State Highway 14 towards town, into the darkness from their home on the eastern outskirts of Dargaville to a nearby safe point at the distinctive giant grain silos alongside the highway, not far from their property.
“The water levels were rising quickly, my wife was praying as we clung to the side of the fire engine.”
Included in the evacuees clinging to the fire engine was a guest staying with the Nayyars from the willing workers on organic farms (Woofer) project.
Nayyar said there was lots going on around them in the darkness at the grain silos as about 10 soaked evacuees gathered.
Business owners were at their premises all around in the light industrial area trying to secure their properties.
There were flashing lights in the raging wind and rain.
“I was shivering. I remember a kind man, a volunteer there to help us giving me his jacket,” Nayyar said.
The first-term KDC councillor then got the opportunity to see first hand his council’s Dargaville civil defence evacuation centre where he would end up staying for the night.
He called Northland Regional Council Kaipara councillor John Blackwell, with whom he had the previous day organised to meet, asking for a lift to the Holy Trinity Anglican church.
Nayyar went to the evacuation centre, checked on his wife who had already been taken there, then headed straight out into the streets of Dargaville with Blackwell to help the fearful community.
“I just love Dargaville,” Nayyar said.
He spent the whole day checking on the community and helping out.
Nayyar spent just a single night at the evacuation centre before heading out to help the community again on Wednesday.
He and his wife were able to return to their home to sleep last night and have begun the long process of cleaning up.
Nayyar was overwhelmed with the kindness shown to him during the family’s early morning rescue and beyond.
“I got to see the good in people in a time of distress. That’s the message I have taken from this,” Nayyar said.
On Wednesday he was able to pick up his goat Betty, the single goat saved from his two swept away in the floodwaters.
Betty had been taken to the nearby Northland agricultural field days site by a member of the Brethren community and into a barn for safety.
The Nayyars’ plastic houses where Mamti was growing Asiatic vegetables were destroyed.