Shakaya Kira and her two babies are without a home, after a winds from Cyclone Gabrielle sparked a fire. Photo / Michael Cunningham
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As Northland begins to recover from Cyclone Gabrielle a battle continues at the base of the region as Kaipara endures floods, power cuts, evacuations, and many personal stories of hardship.
A snapped power line from gale-force winds triggered devastation for one Dargaville mum after it sparked a fire that consumed her family home.
Shakaya Kira was feeding her 2-month-old daughter in the lounge of her home on Monday evening with the cyclone’s strong winds buffeting the outside walls.
She was worried the roof may come off, so called a friend to come over as a precaution.
The last thing she expected was for him to run into the lounge yelling, “your room is on fire”.
Within 30 seconds, flames had engulfed Kira’s entire bedroom.
Panicked, they grabbed what they could and with Kira’s two children and her brother escaped through the backdoor.
They watched in horror as strong winds forced flames through the house.
When firefighters arrived they said there was nothing to be done.
”The wind was too strong,” she said.
Kira rented the home with her brother, mother and uncle, as well as her two children.
Kira was relieved her 2-year-old son had refused to go to bed that night or “he would be gone.”
And her mother wasn’t home when the fire took hold. She was in Auckland receiving cancer treatment, Kira said.
The loss of precious items which cannot be replaced has devastated Kira.
Her 2-month-old daughter is also terminally ill and with time on the clock, she wanted to save precious items.
”I’m so devastated because they said I’ve only got a couple of years with my baby,” she explained.
She’s lost newborn photos and items from both children, including her 2-month-old’s placenta. She plans to do a karakia at the house before anything is done with the rubble.
Kira was clear to highlight that despite their shocking reality, there are many without homes across the country due to flooding and slips from the cyclone.
In Dargaville alone, families in low-lying areas have been repeatedly evacuated, including on Wednesday evening.
Residents on River Rd, Victoria St, Logan St and side streets, as well as Finlayson Park Ave were strongly recommended to evacuate again on Wednesday evening after a hydrology report suggested more flooding could occur that night until this morning.
Matua Baker Senior, Dianne Baker and her son Harry Baker on Finlayson Park Ave were evacuated on Tuesday morning. They said police urgently door knocked along the road, urging residents to evacuate.
It was at the same time that Matua Baker recalled hearing a loud “bang”, which turned out to be the power box exploding. They still have no power.
Mother Dianne Baker said the evacuation did not come as a surprise.
”I wasn’t surprised about it because I kind of figured it might have had to happen,” said Dianne.
She said the whole experience was “kind of freaky” but is glad their home is safe.
The family returned home around 11am yesterday after helping clean up at the community emergency centre at Tirarau St, where they spent the night.
Matua Baker said the precautionary measure was “definitely worth it”.
Families ventured into Dargaville’s town centre on Wednesday in order to gather supplies and complete various errands, including mother and daughter Karen and Sarah Dempster.
They had two days’ worth of washing piled up at a nearby laundromat, as their power remains out at Tangiteroria.
”It was going on and off all the time,” said mother, Karen.
Gales were strong on Sunday and Monday night which, they said, was battering the house.
”We ended up sleeping in the lounge the first night because we heard one of the trees crack,” Karen said.
It turned out a large tree had fallen on to their shed, although they haven’t checked the extent of the damage yet.
A slip on the side of the road meant that Karen’s husband and their neighbour had to use tractors to push the blockage aside. Sarah also said trees have fallen onto fences along the roads.
Evacuation centres have housed hundreds of evacuees, including at the Holy Trinity Church.
The official Civil Defence evacuation centre had housed 30 people on Tuesday night, and more were expected to arrive as further evacuations were ordered on Wednesday night.
A further two evacuation centres had been set up across Dargaville.
Welfare manager for Kaipara District Council, Amanda Bennett told the Advocate people were “pretty shocked” when they first had to come in, but “extremely grateful.”
The centre was made available for people who had nowhere else to go, which she said was the “main messaging.”
Marae supplied mattresses, and the centre was not short on kai, with the community “pulling together” to aid those who needed it.
“It was almost like once we realised it actually happened and we realised it was going to be to that extent, everybody’s just come together,” she said, “it’s been incredible.”
She said it’s been a blessing to offer those who need it a safe space to come.
The roads in and out of Dargaville have now opened, with toppled-over trees that would have blocked the highway now pushed aside and cut in half.
Many homes in Ruawai appear as islands, surrounded by flooded fields. Power poles have been blown over in the wind, others sitting at precarious angles.
Many homes are continuing without power, and farmers are unable to milk their cattle.
There have also been reports of families in Dargaville whose homes have been destroyed in the floods.
Though the Advocate was unable to locate these families, it is clear the devastation caused by this cyclone will take weeks if not months to fix.
The emotional trauma for some will remain, though it’s clear this is a community that rallies together for those who need it.