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Staying safe during and after ex-cyclone Gita

Public health advice for the Canterbury area – staying safe during and after ex-cyclone Gita

The following advice is from the Community and Public Health Division of Canterbury District Health Board:

Contaminated flood waters
• Avoid contact with flood waters if you can and assume they will be contaminated by sewage.
There is also a danger of injury from floating objects and hazards hidden below the surface. If power lines are down there will be danger of electrocution.
• If you do come into contact with flood waters, change out of any wet clothes and shoes and put them aside to be washed later.
Wash skin that has come into contact with flood waters, and wash your hands as soon as you reasonably can - or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
• Minimise the amount of water entering the wastewater system by avoiding high consumption activities such as taking baths or using washing machines. Don’t however, skimp on flushing toilets and washing hands.

Further advice on managing safely and cleaning up after flooding can be found here
Drinking water
• If you are on mains water, check your District or City Council website for advice on water use. They will be the first to know if there are issues with the supply.
• If you don’t have mains water (ie water that comes from a spring, river, roof or well) and you think it has been affected by flood waters or heavier than usual rainfall, don’t use it for drinking purposes.
If it appears clear but you are still unsure, it can be made safe by boiling or adding bleach as per advice below.
Water tanks that were filled before the heavy rain and have not pumped new water from a ground supply (spring, stream/river or well) can be used as normal.
If in any doubt about your water supply, boil or treat it before consumption.
This includes all water to be used for drinking, brushing teeth or for use in food preparation (such as washing vegetables):

• Bringing water to a rolling boil is sufficient to kill bugs.
• If you cannot boil water, treat it by adding 1 teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes.
• If you lose power at any stage, avoid opening your fridge and freezers unnecessarily. If frozen food has been defrosted but has been kept chilled, it should be used as soon as possible - as if it had been bought fresh.
• Do not refreeze high risk items such as meat, fish and poultry. If you think these high risk items may have been at room temperature for two or more hours, do not eat them – if in doubt, throw it out.
• Any foodstuffs which were not stored in a waterproof container and anything in bottles and jars with crown caps that ends up under flood water should be discarded.
More general health and wellbeing
• Continue to check on neighbours and vulnerable people near where you live as long as the disruption caused by the weather lasts. Check they have supplies, including their medications, and share with them the advice on water and food safety
• If you need to see a GP and have trouble getting there, phone them for advice. Even if they are closed your call will be answered by a nurse who can advise you on what to do.
In an emergency, always ring 111.
• If you require essential prescription medications and your supply is running low, call your normal GP number for advice.
Stay ready and informed
• Check and restock your emergency kit, ready for future events.
To check what you may need, visit


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