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New Brighton, Australia - Friday 1st July, 2005Hold everything!
The world just stopped!
I have just experienced a day of inundation unequalled in my experience here. It rained for three days & three nights with such intensity that the river opposite my house suddenly rose up, swallowed my garden & then rapidly climbed the wall of my two story house, swamping my garage & car below.
On the third day I awoke from a third dark & stormy night with an uneasy gut feeling. Such was the current of water rushing down from the hills that the field at the back of my house became a raging river that carried away everything around my house that was not securely moored….Simultaneously the ocean just through the trees raged & breached the sand dunes adding extra currents to the chaos.
I was isolated safely above the water but for how long? The waters had entered the bottom of my house & were rising up the inside stairs. Stranded with no electricity I watched amazed as fish leapt out of the water beneath my balcony & birds took refuge beside me out of the pelting rain. Cars floated about on the road like boats & thunder & lightening pounded my ears with magnificent doomsday surroundsound.
I delved about in my powerless house & found a tiny portable radio & a couple of dubious batteries which let me tune in to local bay FM radio. I was listening for only a couple of minutes to a cheery voiced fremale talking about nearby Lismore being evacuated when they suddenly went off the air presumably due to power failures in Byron Bay.
Was this the end of the world as I know it?
The other wierd thing was that there were no signs of life from houses nearby. Had they all been evacuated in the night?
By now it was midday & the rain on the roof was deafening. My laptop? No luck, battery too old…I was starting to pine for a human sighting….the phone?? YES! I rang Gilli to find that her situation was even worse. The water was only two steps below her front door & was also pouring through the roof in the middle of the house. Her car was submerged up to the windows & she was generally more worried than I….in fact I felt much better to be the reassuring one.
I returned to the balcony to see a yellow inflatable rescue boat rushing up the river. Many of the single story houses must certainly have been washed through & their enhabitants would be in shock. Then more & more boats appeared. Also kayaks, canoos, surfskis & surfboards to the rescue. Helicopters fussed noisily overhead. Most of my near neighbors remained above the water line & those in danger had been safely extracted & taken up to the community centre.
Suddenly the rain stopped & it was party time. What else better to do?
A cheerful call from Gilli, told me she was safely back at work in the studio at the dry end of her house. Then Ynys rang from Turiya's place high up in the mountains intrigued by my predicament & unhappy not to be sharing it. As the sun set I opened a bottle of wine, lit every candle I could find & played my new acoustic guitar all night! After my first really peaceful sleep for days, I awoke this morning to find most of it had drained away. My car, though the water had risen just over the interior seats, miraculously still worked!
The garage was a chaos of sodden reel to reel tapes, wet clothes & ruined electrical stuff. Then the state premier landed in a helicopter on the new brighton oval & did a couple of prime time tv news spots outside the all but obliterated New Brighton store declaring us a national disaster & promising us all new bedding, washingmachines & more plastic stuff. Ahh politics!!
I wandered my neighbourhood finding mud & debris strewn everywhere with low lying houses in total confusion but also that generous atmosphere of jokey acceptance & togetherness that comes from surviving the vicisitudes of nature as a community.