Hunter Valley residents in NSW have branded the tourist town of Broke a “disaster zone” three weeks after “the worst flood in at least 100 years".
While the water has since started to subside following its peak on July 6, it has created dozens of sinkholes.
“There are possibly 30 of those, what they’re classifying as erosion holes,” local Angela Andonopoulos, who’s entire cottage was submerged, told Yahoo News Australia.
“They could be up to three metres wide, three metres long and eight foot deep. They’re quite large.
“One swallowed a caravan. They just pulled it out of one [an erosion hole] underneath an awning next to someone’s house, sort of like the size of a swimming pool.”
With so many ‘erosion holes’ there are now serious fears among residents over contaminated floodwaters, after the deluge “ripped through everyone’s septic tank".
“They were pumping out the septic tanks because they were all overflowing from the floodwater,” Ms Andonopoulos said.
“So the floodwater is just full of that kind of waste, and then it’s just stagnating in these ponds and people are really concerned about what’s in them.”
She says the Environment Protection Authority assessed the water in the erosion pools and found it was contaminated.
“So a lot of the residents are concerned about the potential for airborne illness and having children living near these dangerous erosion holes because what if they fall in,” Ms Andonopoulus said.
“A lot of them are taped off around town but some of them are under houses, next to houses and blocking people's driveways.”
One step forward one step back
While clean-up efforts are well underway in Broke, a town renowned for its Hunter Valley wineries, authorities are facing difficulties in patching up the holes.
After first pumping the water out of them, they kept refilling back up again because the water table is still quite high.
In a statement Singleton Council says it is liaising with Public Works Advisory to investigate possible solutions to sinkholes within the township.
“Further information and advice will be provided once we have consulted with relevant agencies as to how this issue can be rectified,” it read.
“Please exercise caution when working near these sites. We understand this is an extremely difficult time for residents and appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Residents left in limbo
With many residents in temporary accommodation or camping out in their half-gutted houses, Ms Andonopoulous says everyone is waiting with bated breath for insurance assessors before they can move on.
“If you drive through Broke there’s the contents of everyone's houses out on the street still, waiting for insurance assessors to come, and there’s a lot of tension around that,” she explained.
“It’s going to be a matter of weeks and hopefully not months but some people are hearing reports that it might be early August or mid August that they're going to have an insurance assessor out, and people aren’t happy about that."
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