Residents left to clean up in flood-ravaged parts of NSW are sharing stories of local bravery, lucky escapes and community devastation as anger rises over the government's lacklustre response to the flood disaster.
Virginia Waters was in Sydney last week when she got a call from her sister who lives with her and and her son in their Lismore home.
She received panicked phone calls at about 4am when her sister was sitting on the kitchen bench with the dog as water kept rising.
"They thought they were going to die ... They had to do things like work out how they were going to get to different rooms and how they were going to get out," Ms Waters told Yahoo News Australia.
"Basically my sister rang me to say goodbye because they didn't think they were going to get out."
Like many others, they were caught off guard by how quickly the water rose. "The situation changed so rapidly which is why so many people were caught out."
Her partner lives separately in Lismore with his 52-year-old disabled brother Christopher and mother Val, who is 92.
A photo taken as flood water reached record heights in Lismore early last week shows just how close they were to becoming submerged along with their house.
"About an hour after that photo was taken, they were actually rescued," Ms Waters said.
"The water was going up at about, I don't know, 40 centimetres to a metre per hour at that stage. It was pretty bad."
"It is very hard to say they would have survived."
Thankfully, a member of the community arrived in their boat in time to save them through the window.
A lot of 'displaced people' in Lismore
Both houses were submerged in the flood but fortunately Ms Waters, back in Lismore, has been able to stay with a friend as the clean-up continues while accomodation has also been secured for Christopher and Val.
However many others haven't been so lucky.
"There's a huge housing crisis up here now," Ms Waters said. "A lot of people have been billeted out to different places or are at the evacuation centre, but long term it's a lot of displaced people."
More than a week after the disaster, anger in the community has reportedly been growing as state and federal agencies failed to meet expectations both as floodwaters rose, and in the days after they rescinded.
"Some of the government response has been not so good," Ms Waters lamented.
"This has been a catastrophe what has happened here."
While the volunteer services have been "amazing" and the community has rallied together to support one another, Ms Water is among many residents that have been left disenchanted with the response from the state and federal government.
Federal response slammed by locals: 'Absolutely disgusting'
Demonstrators in Lismore held placards on Wednesday describing the situation in the town as "another federal failure" as prime minister Scott Morrison visited.
On Tuesday, defence minister Peter Dutton said he wasn't embarrassed by the criticism over the lack of federal troops on the ground in the wake of the disaster saying he won't cop criticism of the Australian Defence Force.
Ms Waters, who works in events and disaster resilience in the northern rivers region, including helping in the wake of the recent bushfires, has a different opinion.
"I think on day one we had some army guys walk through, [they] took a couple of photos and that was it. I'm sure they're out on other tasks, but you know, they didn't even have water on-hand to give out or anything like that.
"They [the federal government] have brought in the army to make it look like a good f***ing show, I'm sorry it's absolutely disgusting."
In flood-ravaged Lismore, the anger is palpable as Scott Morrison prepares to visit. Residents here feel abandoned. Kym Strow and her wife Sarah Jones lost everything. Their cafe. Their home. "We don't need someone picking up our hand to shake it," Kym says. pic.twitter.com/jH2mAuf5If
— Christopher Knaus (@knausc) March 9, 2022
Questions remain after PM visits Lismore
After ripping everything out of her house, Ms Waters is genuinely unsure if insurance will cover any of the damage, describing her town as "like a war zone".
Many in the area were uninsured before the disaster due to the prohibitively high costs, leading to calls for the government to step in and introduce a buyback system for damaged houses.
The prime minister announced extra funding for flood-affected communities in NSW and Queensland while visiting Lismore on Wednesday. Mr Morrison was heavily criticised for what many called a stage-managed trip with media kept away from most of his visit.
For now, residents say they're tired and traumatised as debate rages over the causes and response to Australia's flooding disaster.
Many say a $1000 disaster payment doesn't cut it.
"Climate change is a f***ing real thing," Ms Waters said. "It's frightening."
We need to do something about it, she added.
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