My Experience in the Northern NSW Floods
I’m one of the lucky ones. As hard as it has been to witness the pain, suffering and complete devastation, it has also been heart-opening.
We saved our house from the floods by building a trench from 8.30pm - 2.30am Sunday night. Our neighbours weren’t so lucky, along with many others in the Northern Rivers. A few of my belongings in storage were damaged by the flood waters, nothing important and nothing compared to the loss I’ve witnessed around me. Close friends lost almost everything they owned. A friend of a friend lost his house in a slow landslide after it’s taken him 6 years to build. A little ironic and I can’t imagine how agonising that must be. Two people stuck in the mud, with their house in a landslide for 36 hours before being rescued and taken to hospital. Whole towns submerged under water, others cut off as the roads were washed away. Some people losing their lives, others losing their livelihoods. The biggest disaster I’ve lived through, until now they’ve always been something that happens elsewhere, with the sentiment of how horrible it must be for “them” and donating money to the cause.
I’m one of the lucky ones. As hard as it has been to witness the pain, suffering and complete devastation, it has also been heart-opening. The social distancing that became the norm during the pandemic, disappeared in an instant. The community has been rallying, the people in close and far proximity to these disasters have heard the call for help and taken immediate action. Friends from the Gold Coast driving down with car loads full of food and other supplies, heading all around the Northern Rivers for deliveries and cleaning. Way to go Han and crew. People who’ve lost everything, with the knowing there’s nothing more that can be done for themselves, spend day after day helping others who need it, Gilly you’re incredible. A local business sending their staff to help their direct competitor, who got flooded and would have been put out of business, get their shop back in order. Friends further away, asking where the best place is to donate money. I feel very inspired by the compassion, empathy and willingness to help each other through this difficult situation. Every little bit makes a difference.
There’s some talk about the lack of action from the Government. I can only speak of my experience and what I’ve heard directly from locals. During the floods I know and saw the SES and the general public doing an incredible job. I didn’t see any army or police until 9 days after the floods and it’s taken 10 days since the floods to declare a National Emergency. Nonetheless, 12 army guys did just jump out of a rental van to clean up the flood damage from my neighbours house. Better late than never I guess. I’m still a little concerned about the response time, if there was an “actual” emergency, would they take 9 days to respond? How do they determine the suitable amount of time to respond or did it actually take them 9 days to get their act together?
Apart from the questionable reaction time, I really appreciate the $1000 disaster relief payment. It doesn’t really cover the damage to my belongings in the floods and I don’t suppose it will support the family of 5 who lost everything they own including their house. I’m venting some of my frustration, while hoping that there will be more support in the following weeks. I’m also including a sprinkle of the communal dissatisfaction in the Australian Government and they way they have shown up in response to this disaster.
There’s a lot of work to do to restore this beautiful region and personally I’m thinking about the best way forward. Whether you believe in climate change or not, this flood is the worst in many generations. There was another flood, less but still devastating 5 years ago. How do we rebuild this area in a way that protects it from the risk of another flood in 5, 10, 20 years, or less, or more? Are we starting to see the weather extremes intensifying that climate scientists have been warning us?
I feel somewhat powerless and have no answers or even ideas yet about the actions we need to take. In the last 5 years there’s been floods, drought and horrific fires, a global pandemic, and now Russia Ukraine and more floods. I’m usually a very optimistic person and while I still acknowledge that side of myself, I’m feeling humbled and a little shell shocked as these cascading horrible events have delivered a pessimistic slap in the face. It’s brought me back to a reality that I wasn’t ready to see or do anything about.
I’m ready now.