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A message to those whose homes have been destroyed - from someone who has been there

Courtesy of @nampix via Instagram

By KARINA ROBERTS

The television was on in the background yesterday and I wasn’t really listening, until I heard a couple of phrases: “Breaking news” and “rolling coverage of this unfolding disaster” floated into my consciousness.

It made my heart sink.

Almost two years ago, I was evacuated from my home in Brisbane’s West, taking just my laptop, photo albums and a folder with some important documents. An inland tsunami had hit Toowoomba a couple of days prior and the constant rain since, had meant the ground was soaked. I could see the waters rising slowly from the end of our street. I was worried the roads would be cut off and we’d be stuck in the house for days without electricity.

I knew our house was in a flood zone but I wasn’t around for the 1974 floods in the area. I’d questioned the real estate agent about being in a flood zone and even considered calling off the contract but she had said 1974 was a one in one hundred year flood. Everything would be OK.

I had no idea just how high the waters could rise. I worried that the waters might come up under the floorboards and the rug I had gotten from my Mum for Christmas might get wet. So before I left, I rolled it up and put it on the bed for safekeeping.

Sitting across town on much higher ground, we sat glued to the television  set, watching Channel 9’s “rolling coverage of this unfolding disaster”. Every now and then there was “breaking news” of yet another street that had gone under.

Karina’s flooded home

Another person missing. Southbank was under. Riverwalk had broken away. Drift Restaurant was floating down the Brisbane River.

From the comfort of the couch, it all seemed a bit surreal, like it was happening somewhere else, to someone else and not me.

Until it was.

They say nothing is black and white, but when you see your street name right up there on the television and reporters in your neighbourhood doing their live crosses –  well, it’s black and white. There’s no grey.

Your street has gone under.

Your house has gone under.

Nothing is the same.

It was a couple of days before we could get back into the house. The whole neighbourhood resembled a war zone with a smell no words could describe. People and emergency services were scattered around everywhere like busy worker ants, they scuttled between heavy moving equipment and rubbish trucks.

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Karina’s flooded home

An army of volunteers, “The Mud Army” were in full swing, traveling from house to house, gurneys in hand, while television crews flitted from suburb to suburb looking for the most disastrous area to film from.

The floodwaters had gotten to just below the ceiling in my home. Absolutely everything in the house was destroyed and turfed out onto the street to be collected by the endless trucks. All the beautiful photos in silver frames. Mother’s Day cards. Kindergarten drawings.

A lifetime of memories destroyed.

The entire interior of our home was covered in a thick, sludge of mud and sewerage and the backyard was littered with neighbouring hot water systems, wheelie bins and furniture.

We spent two full days cleaning up, with the help of kind strangers. The lovely people who owned my home during the 1974 floods came to visit to see if they could help. They took away all my crockery and cutlery to wash and store.

Sunrise over Forster courtesy of @markush19 via Instagram

When I saw the “rolling coverage of this unfolding disaster” on the news last night, I realised that it is only now that I fully understand what a natural disaster story means. The footage was familiar, the pain and despair etched across the faces of the people being interviewed felt real and the absolute devastation of the surrounds was like deja vu.

Experiencing a natural disaster has changed me. In my case, it was nobody’s fault. There’s no one to blame. I simply bought a house in a flood zone and it flooded.

My thoughts go out to the people of Tasmania and New South Wales.

Thoughts for the heartbreak they are currently facing and the long road of recovery ahead.

Since yesterday my ears have been tuned to hear “breaking news” or “rolling coverage of this unfolding disaster” and every time I hear those words uttered again I shudder.

Please stay safe. Please stay strong and if the worst happens, please know there are other people out there who have gone through it and understand.

The Red Cross has launched a Tasmanian Bushfires Appeal – you can donate here.

Karina Roberts is Brisbane based writer, publicist and Mum of one with an obsession for food, fashion and design. She is currently rebuilding her home after it was destroyed in the 2011 Brisbane floods. She is blogging the progress at http://karinashouseproject.com .