Mother of 11 from Gloriavale swept to death by swollen river after bank collapsed

The woman who died in a swollen West Coast river was a mother of 11 from the Gloriavale community who fell into the water when a bank collapsed.

A source told 1 NEWS the woman, Rejoice Stedfast, was standing on the edge of the Haupiri River, when it fell away.

There were children nearby.

Police say her body was found by search teams just after 8am today.

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The woman’s thought to have gone into the Haupiri River shortly before 8pm yesterday. Source: Breakfast

The deluge has also caused the collapse of a bridge near Arthur’s Pass and the closure of multiple roads – several of which remain off limits to motorists this morning. The townships of Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier are "pretty much" isolated this morning, a Fire Services spokesperson told 1 NEWS. 

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Transport Agency is expected to send heavy machinery to Goat Creek along Arthur’s Pass early this morning to begin repair work on the damaged bridge.

Goat Creek Bridge collapse. Source: NZTA

The bridge on State Highway 73 will remain closed for the day. It was replaced in 2010.

There were also a number of slips and flooding along the highway, he said.

Andy Thompson from Civil Defence says damage to roads is significant.

Travellers have no ability to head north from Fox and no ability to go south from Hokitika, he said.

There are a lot of tourists currently stuck in small townships along the main highways affected – in particular SH6 at Goat Creek. 

Fire Services said there were multiple calls in the middle of the night to help pump excess flood waters on the West Coast. There are no reports so far of damage to property.

Continuing road closures include: State Highway 73 through Arthur’s Pass due to the washed out bridge; State Highway 6 from Harihari to Fox Glacier, and again from Hokitika to Harihari, due to surface flooding; and State Highway 73 from Otira to Kumara Junction.

In addition, a slip in Canterbury has caused State Highway 73 to closed between Jacksons and Springfield.

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Westland Mayor Bruce Smith posted footage of flood waters cascading on to the road. Source: Facebook/Bruce Smith

Yesterday's weather also caused a group of Otago Boys' High School students to become trapped in a hut in Mt Aspiring National Park after the torrential rains made a creek impassable.

The group of around 25 year-nine pupils are hoping to be able to walk out from the Matukituki Valley hut today.

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The system has brought heavy rain and even snow. Source: 1 NEWS

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