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While death and destruction are the results of disasters, these are often seen hand in hand with the goodness of humanity, courage in the face of danger and the power of positive thinking. Our stories here cover shipwrecks on the rugged Taranaki coast, accounts of plane crashes, the devastation of a flu epidemic, the elements at their most frightening and the threat of the mountain itself.
The headlines of 23 February 1935 said it all: 'Wall of Water, Extensive Flooding, Bridges Collapse, Cattle Washed Away...’
The weather bureau had forecast sunshine with the odd shower or two - so no-one was expecting the deluge that appeared. Taranaki had been in drought, so farmers were praying for rain…and they got what they wanted.
Rain began to fall on the evening of 20 February, and...
In the early 1880s, everything in every town was made of wood. Houses were made of wood; all except the chimneys.
Fences were made of wood and water tanks were made of wood: even street curbing was built from timber.
And at the same time, fire was used for lighting, heating and cooking. In every room, in every building, stood candles, lamps or both. Carriages in the street used wax and...
Armistice Day 1920 was a time of celebration in New Plymouth - but the day was to end in tears.
The public holiday, commemorating the end of World War I, began brightly with Captain Richard Russell taking scenic flights over the town in his little biplane.
In the afternoon, holidaymakers climbed the Boy's High School hill to see Captain Russell loop-the-loop and carry out other thrilling...
Imagine a virus so deadly that in less than two years it would kill more than 40 million people in the world.
That's equivalent to wiping out the entire population of Spain right now, or all the people of Australia twice over.
This is not science fiction, or scaremongering about germ warfare. This is a true story set in 1918.
At the end of World War I, Spanish Influenza swept the world....
Leggy pohutukawa trees stand like guards behind a row of white headstones in a windswept cemetery on coastal Taranaki.
A giant anchor rests on the memorial in the centre of these graves, drawing visitors towards it like fish to a baited hook.
The story behind these 12 lost lives has captured Opunake historian Ian Stevenson, who loves to talk about the wreck of the Lizzie Bell.
One wild windy Taranaki night in 1862, a ship bearing 66 people veered off course and on to enemy lands.
This is the story of the Lord Worsley, a 600-ton steamer that smashed on to rocks in Te Namu Bay near Opunake.
About 1am on 1 September, the call went out: ‘All hands on deck!’
The 35 members of the crew and 31 passengers went up top to find the Royal mail steamer in a perilous...
Andrew Meuli sits in the fire station, a man of good looks, cheer and charm. The epitome of a 'good keen bloke' - amiable, fit and capable - he's back home at Okaiawa after a couple of years away.
Okaiawa is a tiny rural town whose recorded population was 618 at the last census. It lies deep in the Taranaki heartland, under the eaves of the mountain and about 10kms from Hawera.
Gypsy Moth 13 September 1934
It was a perfect spring day when New Plymouth pilot Stanley Green and photographer James Austin took to the air in a Gypsy Moth plane to take photographs of Mount Taranaki.
Green, an electrician, was an experienced pilot, a member of the New Plymouth Aero Club and a flying officer in the No 2 Bombing Squadron of the Territorial Reserve for the RNZAF. Austin was a...
The still body of a young Inglewood boy is covered with a sheet and moved to the New Plymouth morgue.
It is believed that four-year-old Michael Dravitzki has fallen foul to Spanish influenza, a potent strain of the virus that swept the world in 1918-19.
Medical staff at the New Plymouth Hospital on Barrett Street have been dealing with a rapid stream of patients suffering sore throats,...
Summer 1971 was cloudless and bright in Taranaki. But on 21 February the thunder clouds rolled in bringing rain and one of the worst floods in living history.
After 30 hours of continuous torrential rain, rivers and streams around Taranaki were struggling to cope with the deluge of water.
And then the rain stopped, leaving in its wake water, lots of water.
The tunnels and culverts under...