So ten hours after our peak tide when many places were still flooded but the predicted one metre of water covering the entire island didn’t eventuate … much to our relief but at huge inconvenience. I set out on a two hour walk around our town, a 5km radius island. I’ve already fielded calls and texts from old friends interstate and even a call from Mexico. News of the devastation has been given broad coverage.
Cut off from north and west with only one route out the traffic is barely moving bumper to bumper as the vehicles bring the evacuated back home. People are trundling their overnight cases with their worldly valuables trudging home to the unknown.
The river bears testament to much that’s lost … desks, book shelf, tractor tyres, bales of hay, surf boards, 44 gallon drums, trees and debris of more than you can imagine. Miniature islands of huge bulrushes ramming the banks … the sort I’ve only seen in childhood books of Moses.
Many roads are still covered in water, fortunately now only ankle deep. Many more have had the mud scrapped off but still have a tendency to be slippery. The main street, aptly named “River Street”, went under but all the businesses were sandbagged and seem to have escaped damage. One shop alarm pierces the eerie quiet. Only a few others are tentatively walking/sloshing through.
The real estate agent has a cleaner trying to restore order as everything has been placed high to avoid water damage. The chicken shop owner has loaded his vehicle with all his bread and drinks … no doubt headed for an evacuation centre. The only business open is the bottle/grog shop which has men spilling out everywhere – oz has a strong drinking culture – balancing on their bicycles chatting and drinking. Cars pretty well abandoned due to accessibility and fuel issues. The fuel pumps were out for many hours hindering emergency service staff. Now only they can fill at the one station operating.
All the supermarkets, schools, businesses, fast food stores, pubs, gyms, everything is shut as supplies and staff are cut off; we hope basic services can be restored by the end of the week. ATMs are down. One neighbour, on my street, about 5 blocks down tells how they have water in the lower floor. Another swank house is obviously flooded … and how many more.
Every hotel is full some evacuees but mainly the emergency services personnel who drove through flood waters that washed over the bonnets of their heavy duty vehicles to get in with all the equipment, signs, barriers, witches caps, brooms and shovels in order to return order from chaos.
People are seen on street corners and in parks trying to get reception for their devices. Looks like a secret device society that I don’t wish to join, I can wait. Pass one family by the river looking shocked, lost, 3 young daughters only one a teen; two dogs; a few bags; and four kids [goats] … what are they waiting for, where will they sleep tonight? A guy peddling about on his bike with a shovel looking to offer his help. A young couple in one of those big boy utes pulls up to ask if ‘I’m ok’, do I want a lift anywhere … because there is nowhere to go. A young woman walked past in a daze, I ask ‘how are you’ and she managed a smile and said she’d be ok.
Getting closer to home two young men are just locking their garage when a chap walking towards me stops to ask them if they lost much. They said not much just had to clean the mud out. Then one said ‘what about you mate?’ He said “I’m from Lismore so I’ve lost everything but I’m still alive” … I walk on with tears pouring down my face.
Many of the places I’ve lived have been hit hard by these floods so many friends are parked in evacuation centres, living cheek by jowl at risk of covid, nowhere to recharge their devices …. Eight lives have been lost locally but this too will pass and we are not in a war zone … please pray for those affected here and especially for those in Ukraine!
Sorry not opening comments, what is there to say!