Bundaberg locals overwhelmed by task

By Nathan Paull

Flooding in Bundaberg, Queensland. Photo / Supplied
Flooding in Bundaberg, Queensland. Photo / Supplied

North Bundaberg residents are running on empty. Physically, they're drained. Emotionally? Even more so.

In the space of a week, they've seen their neighbourhood transformed from a quiet community into a raging river and, finally, to a disaster zone.

Luxury yachts are strewn along the banks of the Burnett River, where the water tossed them aside like a child might scatter his toys during a tantrum.

In town, putrid mud coats almost everything in sight.

Stagnant ponds have formed in sunken roads, furniture rests precariously in trees and some homes have disappeared completely.

The local council estimates the damage bill to be at least A$200 million ($246 million).

It is not uncommon in the streets of North Bundaberg to see an old woman burst into tears, a grown man shout in frustration or a couple hold each other as they wander aimlessly through wreckage.

But somehow, residents have found the strength to start the arduous clean-up.

As soon as the Burnett Bridge, which links the obliterated suburb to the CBD in the south, was completely opened yesterday morning, a stream of cars began filing over.

Some waiting in the several-kilometre-long line just wanted to start getting their homes back in order.

Others will be assessing whether they want to go back at all.

The queue included soldiers, tradesmen and emergency workers, intending to repair infrastructure damage.

Most were people from elsewhere in Bundaberg, thankful they weren't in the same disastrous situation and ready to lend a hand.

More than 700 residents joined a council-organised mud army to take to the streets.

Co-ordinator Glenn Hart describes the volunteers with the only word he thinks is fitting - inspirational.

"The way the volunteers interacted with those affected community members showed the kinship that exists in our community," he says.

And going by the mood of those who lost everything in the flood, they need all the support they can get.

Dorothy Cox provides a harrowing insight into how people are feeling as she picks through sludge in the garden of what was her newly renovated home, muttering: "Nothing matters any more."

Croc warningQueenslanders are being warned to beware of crocodiles as the flooded Fitzroy River in Rockhampton recedes after peaking at a less-than-expected 8.6m.

Residents are being urged to stay out of the water after several crocodile sightings at Koongal and Depot Hill.

Rockhampton Deputy Mayor Tony Williams said: "The Fitzroy River is a natural habitat for saltwater crocodiles ... You imagine with these flooding events that they'd go out and move around other low-lying areas."

Rockhampton Airport is expected to remain closed to most passenger flights for a few more days.

- AAP

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