Australia’s east coast has been hit with a significant storm that’s caused severe flooding in parts of New South Wales and Queensland.

About 500,000 people across NSW including 300,000 Sydney residents were in danger of flooding or told to evacuate on Thursday morning as heavy rain was forecast to worsen. Horrific footage over the last week from Queensland began to show the extent of flood damage on the community and it was devastating.

But what has it been like for the people affected by these storms and horrendous floods? PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke to young Aussies from three flood-ravaged areas of New South Wales and Queensland: Mullumbimby, Lismore and Auchenflower.

Jacqui Lewis – Mullumbimby, NSW

Jacqui Lewis lives in Mullimbinby in northern New South Wales. It’s a small town in the Byron Shire that connects Brunswick Heads, Wilson’s Creek and Mount Chincogan. But it’s been cut off from the rest of the country because of distressingly high floodwaters.

Lewis said that on Sunday water came up head high. Most of the houses in the town have been destroyed. As of Thursday, a lot of cars are still submerged underwater and fragments of metal, petrol and sewerage waste have been mixed into the rising waters.

She described what’s happening there as an “absolute disaster”.

“Not to create hysteria but I’ve honestly never seen anything like it,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“I’ve never felt the community feel so isolated, so unsupported and so desolate.”

Lewis said the community has little to no drinking water because the town’s water supply has been completely flooded. Internet and mobile phone services are down. The local hardware store was completely flooded and people were seen carrying jars of coins into the supermarket because EFTPOS machines aren’t working.

“We’ve got a large indigenous population that has been completely displaced and now also have nowhere to go because they’ve lost absolutely everything,” she said.

Then there are the landslides. Lewis said people are winching themselves over bridges to reach people who’ve run out of fuel, electricity and satellite phone power. Families with small children are hiking through mudslides. People have been crushed by boulders and need airlifting.

The local neighbourhood centre has become a makeshift evacuation hub. Lewis said that people have been arriving at the centre traumatised. Rescue efforts have been by SES volunteers, not police or emergency services.

“We need the army. We need boots on the ground. We need doctors knocking on doors and figuring out how they can help people.”

Another storm front is forecasted to hit the region. If it hits, people who’ve already had to evacuate and have just gone back to their houses will have to flee again.

Gabby Robertson – Lismore, NSW

Gabby Robertson lives in a raised house on a small street near the Wilson’s River in North Lismore with her partner Emily and their dog Fig. She was visiting family in Sydney when the floods first hit the area. She’s unsure when she’ll be able to return home to help.

She and her partner moved in just three months ago. Robertson’s neighbours told her that prior to this week, floodwater had only ever reached near the top of the steps of the property. It reached all the way up to the roof this week.

“Right now we don’t know the state of our belongings,” Robertson told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“But as we didn’t expect any water inside if flooding did happen when we were away, all we did to prepare was clear out the garage, bring our lawn mower inside and unplug all the electronics (except the fridge).”

“At this point, I know seeing the devastation of our town is going to be really awful when we get back. But I just want to be there and help,” she added.

“We have raised some money and we’ve been buying PPE, cleaning products and first aid supplies to take back and share with our neighbours. I just want to help. We’re so new to the area but it’s our home.

“I am holding out hope but a lot of Lismore locals are divided on the future of the town. This can and will happen again. And now we know putting houses on stilts isn’t a good enough solution.

“The loss of the community would be such a massive loss.”

In some slight news, Robertson’s neighbours were worried that they had lost their three cats. But they found them alive and well on Thursday afternoon.

Ben McLeay – Auchenflower, Qld

Ben McLeay lives in the Brisbane suburb of Auchenflower. He said that he lives high enough to avoid the floods but the rest of his street was underwater.

He felt anxious when his area first began flooding over the weekend. Then he felt nothing for the days after it. But on Wednesday it “hit [him] like crazy”.

“I felt rundown and tired and sapped,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“I realised I had felt quite upset for the past couple of days and hadn’t known. It just hit me at once.”

McLeay also compared the Queensland floods to the horrific 2011 disaster.

“It’s intensely familiar so it makes it feel so strange,” he said.

“No one is panicking because we’ve done this shit before.

He said he was grateful to live in Brisbane even if parts of it were underwater. But he’s found that locals have been less supportive of each other this time around.

“Every person you saw was asking how you were doing. Strangers were checking in on each other,” he recalled.

“It’s hard to anticipate the future because I feel so shit about the present. It’s been such a shit couple of years cause of the flood and COVID. If this is the future so be it. I’ve given up hope it’s going to be normal.”

Image: Supplied