'Apocalypse state': New disaster wreaks havoc year after horror

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·5-min read

To go through fire and water is to face many perils – and in NSW, that's all too real.

After suffering through devastating bushfires that saw livelihoods and homes destroyed, parts of NSW that were burning at the end of 2019 and into 2020 are now under water.

As bushfires raged through the Mid North Coast just over 12 months ago, the town of Port Macquarie was shrouded in an apocalyptic orange light while koalas were being burned alive.

With the once booming tourist area recovering slowly from the bushfires, drought and then the Covid-19 pandemic, the town, and its neighbouring areas, have once again been bombarded by new threats and uncertainty as an extraordinary weather event wreaks chaos.

Orange skies in Port Macquarie (left) compared to a flooded main street (right).
Port Macquarie during bushfires in 2019 compared to flooding over the past few days. Source: Alex Cassegrain/Supplied

Evacuation orders have been issued for low-lying areas including Macksville, Port Macquarie, Lower Macleay, Kempsey CBD as severe weather warnings are in place amid fears of life-threatening conditions.

And those communities still recovering from the black summer bushfires, drought and Covid-19 have been dealt further devastation, with homes swept away, livelihoods ruined and thousands evacuated amid record-breaking floods.

Photos from Port Macquarie show what a difference a year can make, with smoke from bushfires engulfing the town in one image while another shows the main street drowning under the deluge.

Port Macquarie businesses ruined

Nathan Tomkins, owner of Whalebone Wharf restaurant, says the past few days have been a nightmare rollercoaster.

After record flooding at the Hastings River over the weekend, Mr Tomkins' eatery was inundated with neck-high water.

The venture he's spent 24 years building is in ruins.

"The water just went right through and just destroyed everything. There is nothing left," he told ABC TV.

"This is just like a nightmare, it really is."

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Rob Costigan, from Pappibarra about 60 kilometres from Port Macquarie, said losing two of his homes in floods after surviving the fire and drought was a "kick in the guts".

“It’s lucky no one was there – there could have been a death in the family,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

Mr Costigan was able to save his dogs but holds grave fears for his livestock.

“We worked our butts off saving the place during the 2019 bushfires and we’ve been through the drought and now this, it’s just a but of a kick in the guts,” he said.

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People on Twitter shared photos from Port Macquarie, showing water levels creeping up street signs and shop windows.

"What a difference a year can make," one said, comparing catastrophic fires to the heavy rainfall.

"It's looking very grim. Poor Port Macquarie," another said.

A resident commented on Twitter he had lived in the town for 22 years and had never seen flooding this bad.

NSW is 'the apocalypse state'

Rain is not expected to ease until at least Wednesday on the Mid North Coast, and showers will continue to linger for the rest of the week.

There is a warning of heavy rain likely leading to flash flooding in the Mid North Coast, with BoM adding residents are at serious risk.

Drone footage shows houses engulfed by flood waters.
Drone footage shows the extent of heavy rain in Port Macquarie. Source: Reuters/Alex McNaught

Roads are likely to be cut off by water and there is an increased risk of landslips. The BoM warns weather in parts of the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers could be life-threatening.

In the 24 hours to 9am on Monday, Minnie Water, about 50 kilometres from Grafton, recorded rainfall of 256mm.

Yarras Mountain copped 209mm while Kempsey, where the city has been evacuated, received 180mm.

Head of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons also warned the "extraordinary wet-weather event" was not over yet, and NSW had been devastated by damage and destruction.

"You've got to feel for the people of NSW," he told 2GB radio.

"Communities right across the state in the last couple of years, we've had the worst drought in centuries, we then saw unprecedented bushfires and damage and destruction that we simply haven't seen at that scale in NSW.

"We saw storms and floods in the February of 2020, we've been going through a pandemic, we've got mice plagues in western NSW, and then a lot of those same councils affected by drought and bushfires – 34 council areas in just the last couple of days – have been declared natural disaster areas because of this extraordinary wet-weather event, which is still prevailing there.

"Communities will be threatened and compromised for a while yet."

People on Twitter were shocked by the battering parts of NSW had seen over the past 18 months.

"Having lived on the NSW Mid North Coast for 10 years, it was either fire or flood," a former resident said.

"I left at the end of 2019 during an apocalyptic fire season ... now the drought has well and truly been broken and residents are again forced to fight against Mother Nature. Stay safe, stay dry."

Another simply said: "NSW, the Apocalypse state."

with AAP

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