'Kick in the guts': Family homes lost to flood after bushfires battle

Brianne Tolj
·4-min read

A farmer who fought to save his property from the devastating bushfires just over a year ago says his family is struggling after two of their homes floated away in the treacherous NSW floods.

Rob Costigan runs a 40 hectare farm on the Pappinbarra River, near Wauchope in the state’s Mid North Coast, where he lives with his wife, their two young children, and his father-in-law.

It is also home to 10 cows, five dogs and a mini pig “who thinks he’s a dog”, Mr Costigan told Yahoo News Australia on Monday.

The 40-year-old said when they got up and went to work on Thursday, there was 50 to 100mm of water running across the causeway near his home.

Rob Costigan seen left with his family. Right is the main home on the 100 acre farm near Wauchope in the state’s Mid North Coast
Rob Costigan runs a 100 acre farm on the Pappinbarra River, near Wauchope in the state’s Mid North Coast. Source: Supplied

By the the time they returned later that day, Mr Costigan said the intense rainfall that has plagued the state for almost a week prevented them from getting home.

“After the rain we had on Friday night our neighbours went to check on the property and had to give us the bad news of the devastation,” he said.

The family’s main home and the workers' cottage where his father-in-law lives had washed away.

Photos show the homes have now come to a stop, but there is massive structural and internal damage.

The cottage where the 40-year-old’s father-in-law had been living was moved 50 metres and ended up wrapped around a power pole.

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

Severe damage at the Costigan home at Wauchope.
Photos show the homes have now come to a stop after being washed away, but there is massive structural and internal damage. Source: Supplied

Stranded family searching for accommodation

Mr Costigan said he purchased the property in 2018 and had “just started making a go of things”, but Mother Nature has been giving him a hard time.

“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.

The family is temporarily staying at Ms Costigan’s brother’s home after the relatives were stranded by the floods when attending a wedding in Armidale.

When they return, he said his family will have to find some accomodation and may end up setting up camping gear in their machinery shed, which remains in place.

“We’re as good as we can be. We’ve just got to stick together and go through it,” he said.

Family, friends and community members have created a GoFundMe to help the Costigan’s get back on their feet.

Damage to the Costigan family's verandah and one of the kid's bedrooms at Wauchope.
Family, friends and community members have created a GoFundMe to help the Costigans get back on their feet. Source: Supplied

Emergency warnings for NSW as more rain predicted

Thousands of people have been evacuated on the NSW Mid-North Coast and western Sydney, as swollen rivers flood towns and torrential rain continues to lash much of the state's east coast.

There are 40 flood warnings and 20 evacuation orders in place running from the Mid-North Coast down to the Illawarra, including western Sydney, with more expected to be declared on Monday.

People in Kempsey's CBD were told by the State Emergency Service to evacuate by midnight on Sunday with major flooding possible along the Macleay River at Kempsey and Smithtown on Monday.

The SES is warning the deluge will continue and more evacuations are likely.

Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud says the situation '"could get a lot worse".

The catchment areas are already saturated and rain in those already deluged areas are at risk of flash flooding.

A screen grab from a supplied video showing water spilling from the Warragamba Dam in Greater Sydney. Source: AAP
The SES is warning the deluge will continue and more evacuations are likely. Source: AAP

NSW flood evacuation orders

Evacuation orders are now in place for low-lying areas of Kempsey, Macksville, Port Macquarie, the lower Macleay, Wauchope and Rawdon Island, Taree and Wingham.

People are being asked to move possessions up high, take pets, essential items, warm clothes, medicines, insurance documents and valuables with them, and stay with family or friends, or head to evacuation centres.

There is a major flood warning in place for the Hastings River at Port Macquarie.

SES Superintendent Shane Cribb said Port Macquarie had been hit with more than 800mm of rain and his volunteers had been working 24-hour shifts.

"I have never seen rainfall like this. I have worked in a number of floods and this is the biggest one I have worked in in my career," he told ABC TV.

Some towns had been isolated for days, some without fresh water or power.

People have been living in evacuation centres for up to three days and the SES was looking for alternative accommodation for 400 people.

with AAP

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