There’s a distinctive sense of abandonment when there are forces destroying your home and you have no control, your only option but to sit back and watch. That’s how we all felt the morning we woke up last Saturday not to our houses being flooded, but to our entire bottom floors already submerged knee deep in river water. We didn’t even see or hear it coming, we just woke up, heard a gurgle and a creak downstairs and switched on the light to see all our possessions floating past. If we had received a weather warning the night before or were awake to see the first stream come trickling in we wouldn’t have felt as helpless as we did that morning.
The second stage of the nightmare was trying to do a full comparison with the rest of the community. What do we do, should we wade through the water to try and see how the neighbours are doing, or do we sit and wait on the stairs for word from some or any authorities. Our entire blocks bathrooms are situated at the back room of our bottom floor. I did my first and last dash attempt into the water to get to the bathroom that morning. Making my way through the two rooms in a pair of old boots that were spare was possibly the coldest water I have ever put my feet into. Then the blind panic of remembering the animals and pets we had outside. Thankfully my own dog had a wooden dog house that was on a higher level than the rest, so he was okay. But I heard how hard family members further in the centre took the news that their dogs had drowned.
In the midst of peering out our front windows upstairs and everyone posting their photos to Facebook to see if their shock was in line with our own, something truly uplifting happened. People started rescuing other people. Of course, the armed forces and fire brigade were the pillars of our community those few horrible days. But everyone else really stepped up to the plate. St Marys park still remains one of the oldest community’s in our city, and I think that day when everyone was at their lowest and most desperate did its residents remember that. Everybody did their best to restore meaning to the word community that morning, with people rescuing the old and young alike.
When the worst of that day was over and the forces pumped away most of the water there was nothing but quiet assessing left to do. Many people had been evacuated from their homes but my mother, like many others down there, was too proud to leave her house behind. We were all told to stay indoors and upstairs for fear of another flood. To this day, despite the stack of sandbags that’s permanently outside our front door, that fear has been haunting us. That evening, once everyone had received the most help the authorities could give, fear led way to its closest friends – confusion and rumours.
With the few on hand officials and the limited knowledge they could tell us of the floods, rumour began to rip through the houses on our street. The electricity was being shut off at seven. It wasn’t. It’s going to flood again tonight. It didn’t. They’ve stopped giving out sandbags. They hadn’t. It’s natural for a group of people living in fear of the river five feet away to be desperate for information, but the past few days have been a constant torture of relying on ever-changing rumours.
Then it felt like the nightmare was never going to end. After the weekend had passed and we were just about coming to terms with the possessions we lost and the danger we were in, came the contamination warning. Everything the water had touched, from furniture to wallpaper had to be thrown away for fear of contamination. But there’s still the silver lining on the edge of our little grey cloud. The local government employees are coming around on a daily basis to help clear out furniture and lend a hand. We’ve had local electricians come in to assess the damage and have been given free use of humidifiers for inside the house. There’s even been an immediate relief fund given out to all of us before any real financial aid can be assessed. The entire city has been amazing in its support. We have received all manner of donations from hot lunches to fresh bed sheets from organisations and individuals city wide. Even though we couldn’t be more at a loss at this moment in time, I have never been more grateful to the people we live with. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.