Australia begins ‘long haul’ to recovery

LONDONDERRY, AUSTRALIA (AFP) – Thousands of flood-stricken residents along Australia’s east coast began a massive clean up effort yesterday, as waters receded revealing damaged homes, piles of debris and mud-caked roads.

The region has been devastated by widespread flooding brought on by a torrential downpour, inundating towns, destroying farmland and leaving two people dead.

Yesterday, David Williams stepped back inside his home in flood-hit Londonderry, to find waters lapping just below his knees and “gut-wrenching” destruction.

“That was pretty heartbreaking,” he told AFP. “But we’re fortunate that we’re able to save a lot of stuff.”

Williams said he was now on the “long haul” to recovery from the devastating floods, clearing out over eight trailer loads of once-prized possessions – now a sodden, twisted mess dumped on the side of the road.

A man piles up damaged possessions outside his house in Londonderry, a suburb outside Sydney. PHOTO: AFP

In coastal areas north of Sydney, hundreds of troops and volunteer firefighters bolstered efforts in stretched communities by digging mud from roads and clearing debris from properties.

Inspector from the Rural Fire Service Ben Shepherd said the teams wanted “to try and return communities to some sense of normality as soon as possible”.

“This is going to be a prolonged event that is potentially going to take weeks – if not months – in some areas,” he told AFP.

Farmers were also pitching in, donating hay as emergency feed for livestock and trucking it hundreds of miles across the country to help others who have “lost everything”.

Across the vast flood zone, many communities remain cut off by swollen rivers and it was still unsafe for about 20,000 people to return home.

Authorities pleaded with residents to remain vigilant around floodwaters.

“We believe that most river systems have peaked but complacency is a concern for us,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Unpredictable flows will continue to occur in communities which haven’t seen this amount of rainfall for up to 50 or 100 years.”