How Small Towns In The Northern Rivers Are Rebuilding After The Floods

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You might remember the footage that emerged when the Northern Rivers was hit by a deadly flood back in late February which turned towns into seas of muddy waters.

The footage captured the time when around 50 locals and their horses were stranded for over 15 hours above flood waters on a bridge before being rescued. This life-saving bridge is located in Woodburn, a small town just south of Lismore and along the banks of the Richmond river.

The entire town of Woodburn, home to roughly 740 people, was basically wiped out in the first flood and then again in the second flood.

“They’re so traumatised. A lot of them are sitting in these shelves of homes and they don’t know what to do. They’re gonna need a lot of furniture. You know, they need builders, they need trades. They need, they need it’s ground to zero. And then it’s now around 2.0. We’re literally starting from scratch again,” Sam Daley told Junkee.

What Recovery In Woodburn Looks Like

Travelling from Yamba each day, Sam Daley, an occupational therapist, and other amazing locals from the region, have been providing ground support and relief to locals in Woodburn since the first flood.

She told Junkee that there’s some evacuates who have been moved out of Woodburn and to Yamba or other unaffected areas, but there are still locals who were staying behind in their destroyed homes.

“We still do a lot of individual people who call out and just say, I’m on my own in a house… can someone come help me?”

On a larger scale, Sam and her team have been organising transport for people who have lost their cars and have no way of getting around, they’ve also got a new furniture roster ready to go, to try and get new belongings for these locals who have lost everything.

“I’ve got a team of electricians who are working here and in Coraki on a roster as well. Going and re-powering people’s homes that can be re-powered,” she said.

The Horrors Of The Floods

Sam describes what it was like right after the flood waters receded and once locals who had been evacuated could finally go back and see how much damage was done to their homes.

“What was happening was when they were getting back into their homes to try and, you know, start pulling out things like they were sitting in mud and they were pulling out say photo boxes or drawers or anything to see if they could place, they couldn’t salvage and snakes would jump out of their drawers and boxes and cupboards.”

“That was really common. Like that was pretty much every house. And one lady actually said she saw snakes coming up the hill in their droves,” Sam recalled.

Tiny towns like Coraki, Woodburn and Wardell know that whenever Lismore floods, their towns will be likely even worse off. And that’s largely because of the levee in Lismore, built to keep flood waters out of its CBD, which means water gets diverted to other surrounding towns and lands.

Residents in the region are usually prepared for flood events, but this year Woodburn locals were totally caught off guard with just how fast the wall of water was flowing down the Richmond River. Now that the water has receded, working out where it is safe for people to live is the next step.

“A lot of the money as well buying gazebo, big gazebos, big tents – four to six people tents – so that they can set up homes, camp homes on their properties because they’ve got nothing else. And they’re about to all be pushed out in the next couple days out, their emergency accommodation, because it’s Easter and it’s holiday time.

Honestly it is dire what’s happening here and it’s not going away anytime soon.”