Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have seen TV news reports on last week’s Cyclone Debbie and its effects on the North East coast of Australia. It’s estimated the massive storm has caused in excess of $2 billion worth of damage! The category 5 system smashed the Queensland coastline with wind gusts of up to 263km per hour, and the aftermath caused widespread, unprecedented flooding down into northern New South Wales. The towns of Lismore and Murwillumbah were hit the worst, and sadly, several people have died as a result of the floods.
I grew up in a flood-prone town. The floods we experienced in those days were the result of many consecutive days of rain – often up to a week of precipitation, but ex-Cyclone Debbie was something else. The rain started one day, then the wind. The rain really intensified the next day, with the usually calm and beautiful rivers and creeks quickly swelling, and the water rising rapidly. Flood warnings were issued. Before we knew it, we were receiving evacuation orders over the phone, which was quite confronting. The recorded message told us to go immediately to the nearest evacuation centre. Clearly, it was a blanket order, as our area (fortunately) wasn’t badly affected and if the river had risen higher where it usually does, endangering our immediate neighbourhood, our access to the evacuation centre would have been cut off. It is estimated around 20,000 people in lower-lying areas were evacuated from their homes.
The SES were completely inundated with calls for help, evacuations and rescue operations. They do an amazing job, but they can only stretch their resources so far. The army was called in to assist with evacuations at Chinderah, with the main highway, the M1 cut for nearly two days! Friends were isolated in their homes, without power or water, for days. Many country roads became impassable due to bridges being washed away or chunks of the road breaking away.
In the days that followed, I saw post after post on social media showing the devastation of the people of the nearby towns of Chinderah, Murwillumbah, and Lismore. Imagine having a torrent of dirty brown water flowing through your home, complete with assorted debris! When the water recedes, it leaves a thick, heavy layer of mud, which stinks for days and sometimes weeks afterward. Sadly, little can be saved from a flood.
Many people in these towns lost everything they own, including furniture, clothing, school and work uniforms, personal items and mementos, and even their vehicles. With insurance companies considering these locations at high risk for flooding, many people are refused insurance. They will have to start again… from scratch. Imagine losing EVERYTHING you own! There are others who have lost their business too. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock has to be thrown out. Some may not re-open, meaning the owners have lost their livelihoods.
But those on social media stepped up in the face of disaster. For almost every post showing the devastation, there were multiple offers of help from those nearby. An army of people in our area has pitched in, helping friends and strangers to empty out their flooded homes and start the cleanup process.
A friend of mine manages a caravan park whose residents. most of whom are elderly, were completely inundated. She and her husband assisted in evacuating all the residents, enabling them to escape the danger of the flood waters. They then put out an appeal on social media for help. An army of volunteers soon arrived to help clean out the rubbish, pressure hose the mud and cook for those without a home to go to. Donations of white goods, furniture, bedding, clothing, and toiletries were gratefully accepted by those in need. A friendly smile and a warm hug were also very welcome.
Another beautiful friend, who is a single mother of four, has been cooking bulk meals and delivering them each evening to those who are displaced due to the floods in her town. She put up a Facebook post showing her 8-year-old daughter helping her with the cooking, which I thought was awesome. Her 13-year-old son had also been out, helping clean out people’s homes. He can’t wait to turn 15, so he can join the SES. While this generous, selfless, loving woman has helped others out of the kindness of her heart, the experience has also been a great learning experience for her children. She’s such an inspiration!
In response to the calls for assistance, our family scoured our home for all the spare sheets, towels, blankets, doonas, pillows and toys we could find. The kids checked their cupboards and each gave some items they no longer needed to help those who need so much. My son gave up some of his beloved childhood toys (secretly stashed in the back of the wardrobe now that he’s a cool teen!). My 16-year-old daughter parted with her blankies too (she definitely wouldn’t have been keeping them anyway – *cough*). I also put together a box of new toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, moisturiser, soap and a few other goodies. We had a couple of bean bags we no longer needed, so they went too. We had to wait a few days for the water to subside so the roads were safe to travel on. My friend called in yesterday with her station wagon and we filled it to the brim with items to be distributed to the flood victims. While this was such a small gesture, we hope it helps a few people along their way to recovery from this devastating event.
Now that most of the water is gone, the real battle begins. It will take time for a full recovery, but with the help of a supportive community, most people have at least started on this long road. Despite the devastating affects of this flood, it’s great to see the true Aussie spirit still shine through in the face of disaster. A combination of many small gestures makes great headway! You can see the bad or the good in any situation and I’m loving the positive attitudes of our locals and how almost everyone has helped in some small way. Our community spirit is alive and well! 🙂
If you’d like to help flood-affected people get their lives back on track, please donate to the Red Cross Flood Appeal.
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