On a journey through northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, Warren Murray meets locals contending with the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie
Light to moderate traffic is easing along the Pacific motorway connecting the Gold Coast and the Tweed, with no particular sign of storm damage or delays. But in Chinderah, just inside New South Wales and just off the highway, John Anderson is in full-tilt disaster recovery mode, contending with the aftermath of the flooding rains that ex-cyclone Debbie sent south.
At the Gateway Lifestyle Tweed Shores over-50s community, in between dealing with a stream of tradies coming in and out the office door Righto mate, do what youve gotta do, well pay for it Anderson describes how last week the water went through probably 140 cabin-style homes in this complex that he manages.
On Thursday the tide met the downstream flooding and we were inundated with a metre, metre and a half of water not a flood, but slowly rising water.
By Friday afternoon evacuation was well under way for those residents happy to go.
Gas bottles ripped off their moorings, leaking gas, electricity in residences filled with salt water, Anderson recalls. By 10 oclock Saturday night the park was basically isolated and only accessible by rubber ducky. He and his wife, Beth, opted to stay and keep an eye on things, sleeping on foam mattresses on the upper level of their manufactured home, with water swilling around on the floor below, until they could get out and about to assess the damage.
Days later, theres still so much to be done before things even faintly resemble normality. A jotting on the desk blotter says Copper gas line missing gone. Andersons mobile rings and flashes up the caller details: Shade Sail Andrew.
Out front of the park is a pile of ruined possessions that stretches for maybe 100 metres down the road. It represents in a lot of cases everything that people own, or did own. The villas are about 85% privately owned, 15% rented. Some people are insured, a lot are not because of the cost, being flood-prone.
Anderson lauds a magnificent response from the community, individuals who are pitching in to help out. The ladies from nearby Cudgen public school have been turning up with hot food, and in the top bit of the Gateway park where the water couldnt reach we had ladies there cooking sausage rolls and bringing them round. Just the most magnificent response.