A former Western Bay nurse has described chaotic scenes of hospital patients being choppered to safety and an influx of flood-related injuries in the aftermath of Queensland's flood tragedy.
Barbara Cook, who comes from the Pongakawa Valley and trained at Tauranga Hospital, has experienced the havoc the flooding has wreaked at her central Queensland town of Emerald, which was cut in half by floodwater just two days after the town was told to brace for impact.
Ms Cook said residents in Emerald woke on New Year's Eve to find water all around them, with the local Coles supermarket among the buildings to go under.
In one of the most serious injuries of the disaster, a resident was crushed under his vehicle as he rushed a tyre change while scrambling to move his belongings.
While most cases were minor injuries, health workers faced risks of mosquito-borne diseases, skin infections and patients suffering from mental distress, she said.
Yesterday, the only other supermarket in town was bare of fruit, vegetables, meat and many other supplies, and the only milk available was UHT milk cartons, limited to two per person.
The hospital was closed for 24 hours over New Year's Eve, forcing an evacuation of patients by army Black Hawk helicopters to nearby hospitals.
Among those air-lifted were heavily pregnant women whose partners could not fly with them because of load restrictions.
Ms Cook had to work an extra shift on the day and had to walk through floodwaters in her backyard to reach the hospital.
The hospital had since re-opened, but with the town split in two, health authorities had been forced to create a makeshift centre at a college on the other side of town.
Yesterday, there were still 50 people sheltering at the town's evacuation centre and roads to Toowoomba and Brisbane remained blocked by floodwaters.
The bottom level of her state-provided duplex was flooded, but she was fortunate to be living in the top storey.
Ms Cook's children are also working on the front lines of the disaster - her son is an emergency registered nursed based at Redcliffe in Brisbane, while her daughter is on call for the army reserves.
She planned to join them in Brisbane next week for "hugs" and delayed Christmas and New Year's celebrations.
"I still haven't had my New Year's drink yet, but that's okay."
She was also keeping in touch with her mother in Te Puke and father in Papamoa.
She said the floods were "simply huge" and had affected three quarters of Queensland, however the tragedy had pulled Queenslanders together.
"The Queenslander war cry has gone up, with the call to don our favourite colour maroon in support of Queensland and Queenslanders. All in all, we're going pretty good, and we're in recovery mode now."
HOW TO HELP
People can donate to the Queensland flood relief fund through the Red Cross online or through any KiwiBank, National Bank or ANZ Bank branch. New Zealanders worried for family members can also call the freephone number on 0800 432 111, and people considering travelling to Queensland should check safetravel.govt.nz