The flood hit so quickly that the people didn’t have the chance to prepare. Now, as the waters battered the property, the cries of the horses were ringing in their ears. And before they knew it, the oldest horse had been claimed by the torrent and was swept out of sight.
In March 2017 nature struck Auckland in New Zealand with more than a sample of her fury in an event that left some areas devastated. Weather experts called the series of storms the “Tasman Tempest.” Building in the Tasman Sea, the outbreak of bad weather hit the north of the country with severe and highly destructive floods.
Naturally, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in New Zealand studied the storm, and one of its meteorologists, Ben Noll, explained its findings to the NZ Herald in March 2017. “Warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures east of Australia contributed to the storm’s strength and duration,” he reported.
“In fact, the structure of the Tasman Tempest was similar to [that of] a tropical cyclone,” Noll added. The severe weather certainly broke records for Auckland. Not only did it deliver more rain than usually falls during the month of March; it also saw more rainfall than would normally occur throughout the whole of autumn.
As the so-called tempest swept through the area, its storms affected homes and livelihoods alike. Thousands of properties were left without power, and emergency services were mobilized to save people who had become stranded. But it wasn’t just human lives that were put in danger by the storms.
Many animals were also at risk – especially cattle and horses that couldn’t escape the rising floodwaters. And when a paddock in the Clevedon suburb of Auckland was hit on March 8, the horses had nowhere to go. Indeed, it looked like the Tasman Tempest would claim them all.
The owner of the animals, Liz Currie, not only looks after horses; she also helps other owners sell their livestock. And when the storms hit the area, two of her charges, Voice and Lottie, were swept away.
As soon as she heard the news, Currie headed to the paddock to meet the horses’ owners. He and his son were there, but there was bad news: the horses couldn’t all be moved at once. Specifically, of the ten horses present, two of them had to be left behind.
The rescued horses were led to the relative safety of elevated ground. This meant, however, that the last remaining paddock mates in the flooding field were the chestnut-colored Lottie and the thoroughbred mare Voice. Unfortunately, moreover, the Tasman Tempest was fiercer than rescuers could have predicted, and the flooding came quickly.
The poor horses were therefore soon up to their shoulders in the deluge, and it showed no signs of relenting. What’s more, when the rescuers returned for Voice and Lottie, it looked as though they were already too late. There was no sign of the afflicted animals.
Furthermore, both creatures remained missing for many hours – until Currie was given a lead: someone had seen them. The horses were reportedly trying to keep afloat in the floodwaters; however, they weren’t faring well. Lottie, the younger of the two, seemed to be in the worse condition.
Currie subsequently took her roommate and friend Crystal Hall with her for the rescue attempt and raced to the scene. When they got there, though, there was just one horse remaining: ten-year-old Lottie. According to Stuff.co.nz, Currie and Hall reported that Lottie was “a long way out.”
As for the shape Lottie was in, she was standing up but didn’t appear to be moving in the water. Somehow, the horse had managed to find her way onto a tree stump, and she was bracing her body against it to prevent the flood from washing her away.
However, the nearby Hunua dam was about to be discharged to fight the floods, so time wasn’t on Lottie’s side. Hall told Stuff.co.nz that she and Currie decided to go in after Lottie. Despite the danger to themselves, they had to try to save her.
“It wasn’t safe,” Hall recalled. “We were up to our boobs in water, but we really had no choice.” And it was even worse for Currie, who has a self-confessed apprehension when it comes to water. In spite of the strong current, however, the brave duo did manage to reach Lottie, and she co-operated with their rescue efforts.
Worryingly, though, Voice was still missing, and Currie was getting concerned. The mare was 20 years old, and she was supposed to be enjoying an easy retirement amongst friends. After years as a Polo horse, she had more than earned it, too, but what chance did she have against the flood?
Well, Currie refused to give up on Voice, and soon a campaign spread across the internet to help find the missing mare. Both Currie and Hall were touched by the level of support that kindhearted people showed them. They even had volunteers arriving from the city by car to join the search.
Nearly two weeks passed, however, and sadly there was still no sign of Voice. But then, suddenly, after 13 days, a horse matching her description was seen close to where she had last been sighted in the flood. And in fact it was indeed Voice, virtually unscathed but very dirty and hungry.
Currie told Stuff.co.nz , “Where she came from, I have no idea… We’ve scoured every part of that river over and over again. She’s obviously been stuck on a bank somewhere because she was a real mess.”
“[She] is quite thin,” Currie continued. “She’s obviously been somewhere with no food [and] she’s certainly needing a bit of care now. I think she might have just earned herself a very long retirement.” Currie also thanked everyone who had been involved in the search for their help. “We’ve had lots of happy tears. It’s quite unbelievable.”