Floods through fire
Lynda Code recalls the hardships of living through the Gippsland bushfires then having to cope with devastating floods.
LYNDA CODE (VOICEOVER): How long before things return as they were before? How many things do we have to go through before we get our lives back?
Christine, our daughter, was swept down the river by a raging torrent of flash floodwater, surviving by grabbing hold onto a tussock of grass and hauling herself out, 15 meters downstream. I thought she'd gone.
Family life was disrupted constantly. My son and I were evacuated to Willow Grove three times, two hours away. I wouldn't go a fourth time.
Graham my husband's birthday was celebrated with a brief reuniting during one of my evacuations, and the purchase of four small cakes from a nearby bakery, a candle in each one. We sang "Happy Birthday," then separated again. It was the worst birthday we've ever had. Even family traditions had to be forgotten.
Road closures for months, with police patrols wanting personal details every time. Roaring winds. Great black, red-tinged, and terrifying clouds billowed across the mountains, bringing impending tragedy. The sun turns orange.
A helicopter pad is quickly put in place, in case the only access road was cut. Everyone worked with a passion and sense of urgency. Our place was given no hope of survival, despite a mammoth effort of preparation. Absolute sense of helplessness and unable to do any more.
The telephone line is burnt by the ferocity of the fire only 500 meters away. No communication. A satellite phone is supplied.
Two hourly patrols on a roster all night. Sleepless nights, waiting. Waiting.
Thick, dense smoke stung our eyes terribly-- suffocating, smothering, and frightening. Unable to see fire in front, I felt encompassed, entrapped. Helicopters overhead hourly, watching, waiting.
A fire crew arrived with 50 men, fire tankers, and bulldozers, and a successful back burn changed the possibilities. We now had hope. There was a chance we could save our home. The crews gave us reassurance and confidence.
The wildfire sounded like a roaring jumbo jet, all-consuming and breathtaking in its power and brutality, destroying everything in its path. I thought there was no way we could survive. We had nowhere to go and no time to do anything. I was frozen with horror.
Our beautiful river-flat property has been devastated on every side. We are living in a green patch amidst a blackened, empty landscape. I don't know how long we need to wait for things to get back to normal, but we're holding on. The bush life will come back. It gives me hope.