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Published: 2002-06-21 00:00:00

A helicopter search early this morning has found no trace of an elderly woman swept away in her caravan at Waiomu after a night of storms.

A ground search began late this morning for any trace of the woman, whose husband was injured when their caravan was swept away by floodwaters in the early hours.

A Civil defence emergency has been declared in the South Waikato and Thames Coromandel areas following the “weather bomb” throughout the upper North Island.

A civil defence emergency was declared in the Thames area about 3am and the area has now been without power and water since last night, although the sewerage system has been restored.

South Waikato declared an emergency about 7.30am as water and electricity were lost in both Tirau and Arapuni. Schools and factories are closed in the area until further notice and it could be this afternoon before power can be restored.

Water tankers are bringing water into the area, along with public notices about where to get water.

At Thames, the coast road is closed except to emergency vehicles, and many local roads in the area are closed. SH 5 from Tirau to Rotorua is closed, SH 1 is passable with caution needed near Putaruru, SH26 is closed near Mangaiti, and the Kopu Bridge on the Thames coast has no re-opened.

Many people have evacuated from areas such as Tapu, Tararu and Te Puru where there is extensive flooding, cars and caravans under water. There are many reports of damage throughout the South Waikato.

Civil defence staff, emergency services and Environment Waikato’s Flood Response Team have been on duty throughout the night. Fire service crews in the South Waikato have been sent home to rest, with replacement crews arriving to continue the clean up.