The Land Down Under has suffered a great many casualties, in the way of natural disasters of late, and though it doesn’t feature much on the UK news, the east coast Australia floods have had devastating effects for people living in South East Queensland, the Wide Bay–Burnett and parts of coastal New South Wales.
From late February all the way through to early April, Australia’s east coast was subjected to three intense weather systems that resulted in record rains and flooding.
By the end of the first week in March, Southern Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW) had each received more than a year’s worth of rainfall in a week – and this was Queensland’s worst flooding since 2011. Sadly, the floods forced thousands of families to flee their homes and escape to safety.
Recently, we caught up with good friend and Life + Style contributor, Allysha Le Page of @islandofsea who kindly took the time out to recount her experience as a mum of 4 young kids, living in Lismore, NSW (flood zone) and losing absolutely everything apart from, that is, the courage to start all over again.
Flooding is not unheard of where we live. Every once in a while we get a major flood event here and we are well prepared. Our homes are all lifted and most can withstand a 12+ meter high flood event.
So on the 27th of February 2022 when we were told to evacuate our homes, we did but with the certainty that everything would be fine.
The biggest flood in this region in history was in 1974 and it was 12.5meters high.
In 2017 we flooded again and it was around 11.5 meters. Not even high enough to reach my top step.
So when the flood warnings came through people either lifted their things above 12.5 meters and went to higher ground, or stayed home knowing their house sits above 13 meters. I took my kids with a backpack of clothes each, loaded them in the car and went to my sister’s house. I didn’t take anything else – none of us did.
That night, as the kids slept on makeshift beds on the floor, I watched the water rise.
On the 28th of February 2022, the flood water reached 14.4 meters high. Over 3600 houses in the region were completely underwater, including ours. The rain kept falling and it was freezing cold. Those trapped through the night had climbed onto their rooves, elderly survived by floating on mattresses, cattle floated past homes and people screamed for help all night long. The power was out, there was no reception and children were placed in roof cavities with floaties on.
When the sun rose, the town of Lismore was completely gone. Boats owned by anyone came from anywhere that could get through to begin the rescues. In just a few hours, thousands and thousands of people were homeless.
We lost absolutely everything we owned.
When the sun rose, the town of Lismore was completely gone.
It’s now May and we still aren’t home. Most of us are still homeless and trying to rebuild our possessions. I spend more than my rent money each week on petrol, driving the kids to school every day. So many people need tradies, supplies and the money to cover both – so much so, that rebuilding looks as though it will take a very long long time. This flood was unprecedented, we could never have planned for this. Most people here don’t have flood insurance, don’t have savings and have to live pay check to pay check.
The absolute devastation was compared to a tsunami by people that experienced the after effects of both.
The army spent months helping to clean up the mess but they have gone now. The town is running mostly on volunteers, donations and good vibes.
Through it all though, the children have been incredible. They don’t complain about losing their things. They want to go home but they know it takes time. Their strength is amazing.
The children want to go home but they know it takes time. Their strength is amazing.
To learn more about the east coast Australia flooding, visit https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-east-coast-floods-2022 and if you’d like to help those affected by mass flooding, visit https://nationalfloodforum.org.uk – any contribution or simple act of kindness goes a long way.