An Edgecumbe resident has described the bizarre moment that he was confronted by a "whole river coming down the street" after the town's stop bank burst this morning.
Steve Wright, a local of 25 years in the small Bay of Plenty town, is now among those who have evacuated to nearby Whakatane after witnessing "bizarre" scenes.
Mr Wright was out getting a warrant of fitness check on his vehicle this morning, but want sent away by the local garage due to the plumbing not working there.
"I was driving back home and I turned around the corner off Rata Street and there's this big wall of mud moving at me," he said.
"You don't see that every day ... I just drove away from it and went home."
Soon afterwards, he went back down towards the town centre to see what was happening.
The stop bank had burst about 9am and a 10m hole in the concrete wall was letting a huge volume of water into the town basin.
"There was a whole river coming down the street," Mr Wright said.
"There's no way you can sandbag anything like that."
As for his own property, Mr Wright is hopeful is will be OK and he has insurance.
"Most of the important stuff is up off the floor ... I think we'll dodge it," he said.
Mr Wright also had concerns about the Matahina Dam upstream, which he believes may have contributed to the flooding.
"The people who manage the dam upstream from us need a really good talking to," he said.
"The same thing happens every time - I don't know what the hell they're doing."
For now, Mr Wright, his wife and their dog are heading for the safety of friends' houses in Whakatane - and have no plans to go back while the water remains.
"It'd be a bit crazy."