Lismore, South Murwillumbah, Kyogle evacuation orders issued from NSW SES; south-east Queensland situation worsens

There are some truly heartbreaking stories coming out of today’s horror day of floods.

Herald reporter Catherine Naylor is on the ground in Lismore and spoke to resident Noel Leon.

Mr Leon was being rescued when he had a moment of sheer terror, she writes.

Noel Leon with his three-month-old baby rescued from the flooding hotel.

Noel Leon with his three-month-old baby rescued from the flooding hotel.Credit:Elise Derwin

He’s looking down Lismore’s main road, through the driving rain, trying to count his family. He cradles his three-month-old daughter in his arms.

She’s wrapped in a sheepskin rug, and he’s desperately trying to keep the rain off her face.

His voice takes on an edge of panic as he realises he can’t see his two-year-old daughter. “Wait. Where’s Lala? Lala! Who’s got Lala?”

It lasts just a minute. Someone calls out that they’re carrying the toddler. Reunited, sodden, the family walk up the hill to a waiting minibus that will take them to an evacuation centre at Southern Cross University.

The flood refugees just keep coming. Boatloads of them. They’re soaked and in shock. They speak of the speed at which they watched the water rise, how they never thought their place would go under, how much worse this flood is than even the infamous flood of 1974.

In East Lismore, hundreds of metres from the banks of the Wilson River, the muddy brown waters of the river now lap the Bruxner Highway, almost touching the traffic lights that hang overhead.

Usually, this road is full of cars and semi-trailers, travelling the busy main route between Lismore and Ballina, and beyond that to Casino.

Now dozens of boats travel along it instead, a random fleet of private and rescue boats, and even canoes, pulling up where the water stops to deliver stunned families, elderly people, dogs and chickens into the hands of soldiers, police and SES volunteers who guide them into buses to take them to the university.

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