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Flood-ravaged NSW holiday park residents struggle to rebuild a month later
When water swept through the Brigadoon Holiday Park at North Haven, south of Port Macquarie, on the night of March 19, many elderly residents lost everything.
Laurieton Fire and Rescue Captain Les King — whose crew rescued more than 100 people in the area — said it was a miracle no-one died that night.
"We weren't going to leave anyone behind," he said.
"It certainly did get serious.
"On one trip alone, we had 20 people on board our truck, three dogs and a wheelchair … we had a disabled person we carried through the floodwaters, [we then] put them on the truck."
'People are going to struggle'
About a month later, the flood clean-up and recovery continues.
Many of the 200 Brigadoon Holiday Park residents still cannot return home and need help repairing and restocking their properties.
"It's tough for a lot of these people. They didn't have a lot to start with, so now they are out of their house, they have nothing," Captain King said.
"And they can't go back into their house until it is deemed habitable.
"Half the residents are back, half aren't … for those who are not that well physically or financially, those people are going to struggle."
Captain King said the residents needed support in different ways.
"Some people just need a cuddle," he said.
"Those other people need a few dollars in their pockets to put cutlery in the kitchen drawer and to put a fridge in the corner, to put some clothes on their back. They haven't even got that."
Captain King said his crew needed protective clothing to clean out a property that hadn't been touched since the flood.
"We had to remove all their possessions, we are talking approximately three weeks after the event and without electricity, we had fridges and freezers full of meat, empty bins, food in cupboards … it wasn't a very nice place to be," he said.
"I had to put crews in there wearing breathing apparatus because the smell was that bad.
"They were wearing … splash suits, rubber suits so we could decontaminate these people when they came out."
'I made a thousand sandwiches'
Lake Cathie resident Neikz Jones has volunteered at the Brigadoon park since the floods hit.
"I’d only just had surgery. I was supposed to be on bed rest, " she said.
"I made a thousand sandwiches thinking that may help some of the elderly and then I came back the next day … and realised they needed a whole lot more.
"I've … outlived my entire family so I have kind of adopted a lot of these Brigadooners as mine now.
"From day one we have done everything from shovelling faeces and mud to removing debris and waterlogged furniture … to helping them with paperwork."
Ms Jones said it was a slow process and finding enough money was an issue.
"We are on a roller-coaster, [there are] some good days, some bad.
"[We are] trying to dry out floors and then tap into any sort of charity that can donate to us, to rebuild floors and cabinetry and kitchens and bathrooms," she said.
"Probably 95% of the residents aren't insured. We just have to ask for freebies and that includes labour and help.
"We need a lot more financial support, on a bare minimum we are looking at about $200,000 just to rebuild."
Ms Jones said the stress was taking a toll on the residents.
"There are people with a disability here that are struggling; mental illness is on the rise," she said.
"My background is in psychology … I come out at 11:30pm or 2:00am in the morning to counsel some of them.
"They all just want to go home but we can't get them home until we can rebuild."
Brigadoon resident John Peebles hopes to return to his home soon.
"Dampness is a problem and mould is the other one and if you are compromised health wise you can't go near that for at least a month," he said.
"I am staying at a motel. I hope in the next two to three weeks to go back to the caravan park.
"Most of my neighbours are very financially disadvantaged … everything we look at is damaged beyond repair."
Community spirit strong
Captain King said many parts of the Camden Haven district had been affected, but the community was strong.
A community gathering was recently held for the first time since the devastating March floods.
"The Camden Haven community is truly one of the most resilient I have ever experienced," Captain King said.
"No matter where you go in this town, there is somebody with a hand up to give assistance.
"The amount of volunteer work that went on here [during the flooding] … we had hundreds of young people in utes, they just asked, 'What do you want done?'
"They were outstanding in their efforts."
Story By : Emma Siossian & Luisa Rubbo ABC
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