Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has described the scene in Lismore as “gut wrenching” as he toured flood affected areas in northern New South Wales.
Mr Turnbull and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian are visiting areas that were subjected to widespread flood emergency that began on Thursday night.
The clean-up has begun in Lismore and Murwillumbah, where hundreds of State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers have arrived to help.
Local authorities estimate there would be more than 5,000 tonnes of rubbish in Lismore alone.
“Right through New South Wales and Queensland, we have seen nature flinging her worst at Australians, but it always brings out the best in Australians,” Mr Turnbull said.
“You see the resilience of the business people here, the families here, cleaning up, getting on with life.”
Mr Turnbull said there were several options for people seeking financial assistance, including grants and low-interest loans.
“Seeing it first-hand and the impact, treasured possessions, all of life’s work, all of the assets of the business flung out onto the pavement — that is gut-wrenching stuff, and that is why we are backing the people of this community and every community affected by these storms floods,” he said.
Ms Berejiklian described said the flood was a “once in 40 years event” but warned freak weather incidents would increase in the future.
The NSW SES has received more than 2,600 calls for help since the floods began on Thursday, and have made about 500 rescues.
“There’s a big learning from this experience because this was a one-in-40-year event, if not longer,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Unfortunately, these freak weather incidents are going to increase.”
Lismore residents were allowed to return to their properties yesterday and the Premier said other evacuation orders would likely be lifted today.
“A lot of people will be stressed about what they might find when they go back and I appreciate how confronting it is for people today,” she said.
Long clean-up ahead
SES deputy commissioner Mark Morrow said the flood had left a trail of destruction.
“Amongst all that mud, of course, you still have the raw sewage, chemicals, petrol, oil. I heard a story yesterday about a gentleman that owned a paint shop and all the paint had floated to the roof,” he said.
“There is a lot of ugly stuff mixed in with that water and it has dropped back down to the floor.
“Hosing it out in a lot of instances is not going to work so they have to use fairly strong chemicals.
“It is heartbreaking and tragic and it is going to take a long time particularly for the people in Lismore to recover from this event.”
Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said many businesses did not have flood insurance, because it had become unaffordable over the past 10 years.
“I spent most of yesterday walking door-to-door through the CBD and north and south Lismore … it’s heartbreaking,” he said.
“I went into one of our shops, the Asian supermarket … every fridge was upended, every shelf was thrown aside.
“The two owners were standing at the front door, they could get in just one metre … because of the debris and the fallen stock.”
Campbell Fuller from the Insurance Council of Australia said people affected by the floods had started making claims.
“Insurers have received around 14,000 claims to date and that’s across north Queensland, south-east Queensland, and northern New South Wales. It’s a drop in the ocean, there will be thousands or even tens of thousands more claims to flow through,” he said.
Source: ABC News