When Roberto Forgione and Sabrina Topran woke up on Saturday, they put their feet in the water.
The couple, from Italy, have been living in a cottage on an estate on Kaituna-Tuamarina Rd for about three months.
The property borders the Wairau River and has a creek adjacent to it which also flows into the river.
“We woke up around 6:30 a.m. I was listening to a noise that sounded like bubbling,” Forgione said.
*Canvastown community pulls together in the wake of floods
* West Coast Floods: ‘Too Early’ to Decide on the Future of Homes Destroyed by Flood
*Clean up begins for isolated community in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley
“I wake up, and I say to Sa, ‘something is bubbling, and she says no, just sleep,'” he said.
It was then that the couple realized that the kitchen, slightly lower than most of the sleepout, was already about eight inches deep in the water. It didn’t take long for the rest of the house to fill either.
The Marlborough District Council’s rain report on Saturday recorded 212 millimeters of rain in Onamalutu, about 20 kilometers from where Forgione and Topran were. The next day 89.1 mm was recorded.
With the road blocked by cracked riverbanks on either side, they thought they would be stuck.
They called vineyard manager Brayden Leslie, who had also been in touch with their neighbor.
Leslie said the neighbor had opened up the entire road with a chainsaw to help people evacuate.
“The neighbor came here and picked us up and took us to the base [of the property]Forgione said.
Leslie had parked his car about 2 miles away and waded through the water to get to them. Fortunately, they were able to get back to the car.
“We didn’t know how to get out, we understood we were in the middle. But the moment the neighbor came for us and Brayden came, we knew it was going to be okay,” Topran said.
They managed to get back to the property on Monday to assess the damage.
Leslie said they lost 20 cows and a goat. So far they had found five cows that were dead and some still alive about 7 km downstream from the river at Tuamarina.
“We may have lost a little over an acre, an acre and a half, of newly depreciated vineyard. It was only developed last year, this block hasn’t even been trimmed yet, it’s brand new,” Leslie said.
“The block at the top has been completely swept away, poles, plants, everything is just gone. We don’t even know where it is at this point.
“She’s been pretty tough.”
Rivers overflowing their banks, flash floods and more intense cyclones. How climate change makes flooding more extreme.
The neighbor drove through “crazy things” to save the Italian couple, Leslie said.
“He opened it” [the road] both sides. He also helped get the post lady out, who was stranded, she came through the water and it came up on both sides and she got stranded on both sides,” he said.
The sleepout had meanwhile been cleaned up and broadcast. One pool remained covered in mud, as did much of the property. Forgione and Topran hoped to get back inside when the cleanup was done, but in the meantime stayed in town.