Photo Credit Pedestrian.TV
I am not even sure where to start with writing this, but I know I have to say something. The usual words of "our heart goes out to everyone affected" and the like are just not going to cut it. I wish I had not seen what I have seen, yet, I also wish every Australian could see it as no photo or video will ever capture the horrific scenes.
I felt annoyance and inconvenience as I sat in some weird holding pattern at Coffs Harbour while all roads returning home to QLD remained closed. I was desperately waiting to return to my home and business on the Sunshine Coast. I had seen the images of floods to my local areas and was nervous as to what I might find when I returned home. And yes, we have received some minor damage and some cleanup is required, but I am hesitant to even claim on insurance after what I witnessed on the drive home.
I waited in Coffs Harbour as long as I could until a safe route was opened for me to drive home on Saturday. I was indeed surprised to find myself directed on a route through many back country roads, where bitumen had been ripped free of the road and pushed aside like it was a paperweight. I drove past raging creeks that were surely once almost invisible. Gums were uprooted and stripped like they were toothpicks. Fences merely held rubbish and debris carried by raging waters.
On the approach to Grafton, the heaviness could be felt. Some lives had been changed forever. But it was not until I reached Casino that I understood how powerful and devastating this flood had been. The waters had cut away new raw banks on the river and appeared to have doubled it in width. It was still flowing with force, a strong angry colour of orange mud. The enormity of the water levels hit me as I saw people discarding all contents from their homes and emptying storage sheds of all belongings. The mood in the car changed dramatically and I shed tears.
Little did I know what was to come as the roads took me to Lismore. It can't just be called a flood event. The images shown just don't do justice to what is happening on the streets. There was no army and no government assistance at this stage, where it was so desperately needed. As I drove past the sign showing the highest recorded floods for Lismore, back in 1974, it was clear by the orange mud stained buildings that this flood had dwarfed those levels by 2 - 3 metres.
As I continued to drive through the now sepia coloured town I saw an upturned helicopter with propellors at angles they should never be in. There was a car up high in a tree, way up high. Caravans were on top of each other having been bounced around like lego blocks. New car yards had dozens of cars not only smashed into each other but upturned, on their sides, on top of each other. The force of this water now becoming very apparent.
As I entered the residential areas, my heart broke into pieces and I cried, speechless for the next few hours of my drive home. Fellow humans were discarding all their belonging from their homes. They were covered up to their waist in mud, piling destroyed furniture and precious belongings to the side of the streets. These people were not filtering through possessions, it was simply all gone. Homes no longer had windows, now haunted versions of what they once might have been.
You could see the slippery sludge on the ground, dark and thick. Towers of rubbish just lined every street. No house was spared this cruel task of building mounds 2m high of everything you can imagine form carpets to clothing to toys, bookcases and sofas. The raw pain and shock was on every face.
There was no food, no water, no power, no sewerage. Random people were stopping with hand made signs saying "free food" and "free water". You could see this was a localised effort in clean up. I wanted so desperately to stop and help but did not know where or how to begin. I also felt if I stopped and asked "what can I do?" this would be met by a person in shock with the inability to direct. These people were in fresh trauma as they absorbed the enormity of what had happened to them. I felt like an intruder.
As I drove out the other side and reached Bangalow I had to stop and take some time. The horrors I had witnessed will be with me forever and my heart is so heavy. The tears just won't stop flowing. I have never felt so hopeless or useless in my life. I watched holiday makers in Bangalow laughing and shopping in complete ignorance of what was happening a mere 20 minutes down the road and was gutted.
Upon my return home, I was angry and frustrated. I am not a political person but I couldn't understand where the government were. We seemed to have announced how wonderful we are with a $70M donation to the Ukraine, but where are the funds for our own backyard? We had defence forces watching the QLD border during the pandemic but why were they not in Lismore where they were so desperately needed?
I have now looked into how we as ordinary people can help. It is the least I can do.
For a physical approach, one can join the Mud Army where you are part of a team of volunteers who assist in shovelling out mud-soaked belongings from homes to the nature strips. Of course, a less public approach is also an option where you may offer to empty someone's kitchen cupboards and take all the plastic items home with you, wash them of mud, and return what can be saved. Same for their clothing, perhaps ascertain what can be saved and put them through your washing machine or a dry cleaner to be returned.
If lending a hand physically is not an option, but you still want to help, donating through GIVIT is the best option. 100% of the donated funds go to the cause. You can also choose specifically what you are donating towards and know the flood victims are able to purchase things that are fit for their purpose.
Alternatively Lismore City Council is taking direct deposits to assist with flood recovery.
People are going to be traumatised long after the clean up has finished. Our lives will move on and the devastation will become a memory, but it will live deep in their veins for years and generations to come.
To all those affected by the floods, I am truly deeply so sorry for your losses. There are no words of comfort, but know, many of us want to help. Please, let us know if there is ANYTHING at all we can do.