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Cyclone Bola

Chapter 1   Inundation & Devastation  -  Introduction and background information regarding Cyclone Bola throughout New Zealand.

Chapter 2   Disintegration & Destruction  -  The collapse of the Wairoa Bridge and all Service Utilities.

Chapter 3   Survival & Tragedy  -  The conditions and heartbreak in the first week after Cyclone Bola.

Chapter 4   Isolation & Transitional  -  Initial response to Wairoa's total isolation from the outside world.

Chapter 5   Provisional & Interim  -  Alternative transport routes provided to access both Wairoa north and south.

Chapter 6   Restoration & Construction  -  The planning and contruction of the new High Level Wairoa Bridge.

Chapter 7   Unification & Celebration  -  The Opening of the new Wairoa Bridge and the unity of the Wairoa township.

Chapter 8   Memories & Recollections  -  Personal stories and recollections contributed by our Readers.

Chapter 2 - Disintegration and Destruction

At 6.26am in the morning, the force of the multitude of logs, branches and smaller debris was so great that the piles under the Wairoa Bridge were swept out, causing 110 metres of the bridge to completely cave in and the central span wash away. During the stormy days before, branches and logs had been swept down though the catchment area by the raging current and had slowly packed up around the piles of the bridge.

The 55 year old bridge had seen many floods in its time but the enormous buildup of debris and the force of the water was just too much for her to withstand this time. This time she gave into the force of mother nature.

Wairoa Bridge

This Photo shows how banked up the debris was behind the bridge columns. The tide is extremely high and the banks overflowing on both sides.

Wairoa Bridge

This Photo shows the water pipe fracturing and the town water supply beginning to pour into the river.

Wairoa Bridge

Seconds later the Wairoa Bridge began to slump around one third along from the north side.

Wairoa Bridge

The Bridge had started to cave in at its weakest point leaning slightly left.

Wairoa Bridge

The first span broke completely and dropped into the river on the northern side to the left, pushed by the force of the debris.

Wairoa Bridge

110 metres of the central spans followed suit and the centre of the bridge crumpled into the Wairoa River.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge had completely collapsed under the pressure of the water with the columns pushed over by the build up of debris.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge sunk into the water and is forced left by the power of the water current and the colossal amount of debris that was banked up.

Wairoa Bridge

Still largely under water the broken structure twists and started to move down the river pushed by the eruption of debris that had broken free from behind the bridge columns.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge is still submerged under the water and debris as the rapid current pushed her east.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge began to surface through the gigantic pile of branches and logs and continued to move left.

Wairoa Bridge

The broken sections of the bridge surrounded by debris started to pick up speed. The 110 metre gap in the bridge now totally clear and empty.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge surfaced amongst the debris and continued to move down the river.

Wairoa Bridge

The Bridge moved passed Deka and the ANZ Bank and traveled swiftly considering the weight and size of the metal and concrete, that once formed the Wairoa Bridge.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge continued down the river passed Winters.

Wairoa Bridge

Above, the bridge passed the Locke Street and Marine Parade intersection and the Wairoa BNZ.

Wairoa Bridge

The bridge passed the Wairoa Library and continued down stream and around Spooners Point.

Wairoa Bridge

All eyes turned back to the right. There stood the remains of the Wairoa Bridge, forlorn and broken.

Hundreds of people had flocked down to the river bank in the early hours of that morning, when the news of the shaky bridge was spread around by word of mouth. Cries went out in dismay and tears rolled down cheeks as she caved in after having fought so long to hold the North and South Wairoa together as one. Then there was silence, the Wairoa community just watched in disbelief as she started to be swept down the river. The township was already isolated from the outside world other than by air and now the township was divided in two.

Friends and families lining the Wairoa River banks waved at each other across the river.

So near and yet so far away.

By late morning, the skies had lost some of their threat and the sun occassionally appeared amid the cloud cover. The Wairoa people ventured out of their home and onto the street to watch the helicopter at work or survey the damage or simply to talk to their neighbours and friends.
At this stage there was a sense of calm, the real emergency seemed over. It was not quite that good though, not at that stage anyway.

On the surface the damage was relatively light, but there remained the one real disaster - the loss of road traffic contact across the river.
Also essential services had been disrupted and needed to be put right. But it was to all happen and in an orderly, planned and calm way. [3]


1.    Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

2.    Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

3.    The Wairoa Star.

4.    The New Zealand Herald.

5.    Television New Zealand Archives.

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