Nerves fray as enormity of disaster sinks in

A sense of calm returned to Lismore on Tuesday. The driving, panic-inducing rain of Monday finally stopped. Police and the SES seemed to be back in control, and at the water’s edge, Monday’s steady stream of survivors had been reduced to a trickle. Today, boats were being used to ferry evacuees back to their houses and businesses as the water began to recede, so they could start hosing out the mud before it dried and stuck.

Residents recover whatever goods they can.

Residents recover whatever goods they can.Credit:Elise Derwin

The stories kept coming though about the efforts of locals to help others. When a carpenter and concreter turned up with tools at the water’s edge on Monday morning, they were put into a police rescue boat and spent the day cutting holes in roofs and pulling people out; covered in cuts they suffered as they were dragged through the rough holes. The two local tradesmen were credited with saving at least four lives.

Petrol stations have donated fuel. Chemists donated medications. People have ferried survivors to evacuation centres in their own vehicles. But nerves in Lismore are fraying as the enormity of the disaster sinks in.

Sammara Gerrey, who lives just down the road from Lismore Square, said she got out with her three children at 2.30am on Monday, when passing police told her the river was heading for a peak of 15 metres.

She went back to the house to survey the damage on Tuesday. A dining table sat upended on the fence and her children’s cubby house had been dumped by the flood on top of her neighbour’s shed. The yard was strewn with mud-covered bikes, scooters and trampolines.

Sammara Gerrey lost everything in the flood.

Sammara Gerrey lost everything in the flood. Credit:Elise Derwin

She said she had been trying to keep it together for her children, aged 8, 4 and 2, who have autism and hearing impairments, but when another survivor at the evacuation centre told her off, claiming she was taking too many clothes and wasn’t entitled to them because she had found another roof to sleep under, she found herself crying.

“My daughter looked at me and said, ‘mum, is that rain or tears?’.”

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