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Couple sues emergency services for flooded home

By court reporter Loukas Founten, Friday November 29, 2013 - 10:48 EDT

A couple from Virginia north of Adelaide is suing emergency service organisations, claiming they flooded their home while trying to divert water away from the town eight years ago.

Laurie John Jacobson and Karolyn Margaret Johnson launched the action in the Adelaide Magistrates Court against the SES, the CFS, the Playford Council and the State Government.

The claim for unspecified damages arises from flooding around Virginia in November 2005 when the Gawler River breached its banks and inundated the couple's Park Road home.

In court documents the couple claims emergency crews, without consultation, removed a section of the railway line to allow floodwaters to flow away from the town, but that took the waters directly to their property.

The couple says emergency services failed to help in the initial stages of the clean-up and that their overall response was poorly planned and insufficient.

The claim alleges police warned the couple on the day of the flooding that "they were likely to experience a little water coming through the septic system, but that it would not be extremely bad and they could choose to either stay or leave their property."

In the claim, it is alleged that Mr Jacobson called the SES on behalf of the couple for further instructions.

"They were told their property would be safe and that it was other parts of Virginia that were most at threat," the documents state.

Mr Jacobson and Ms Johnson left their property early in the morning when they decided that rising floodwaters would prevent them leaving if they stayed any longer.

The couple allege that when they returned there was "a deep stream of water running through their property about 65 centimetres deep."

They then organised to pump water from the home and began clearing the site but say it was a day before emergency service crews came to help.

"The plaintiffs suffered significant loss and damage to their property. All rooms, furniture, fixtures and fittings, floors and floor coverings were affected by water damage and most of the belongings were unsalvageable."

The claim says that the couple had to rent accommodation for 28 days while cleaning up the property and were unable to work during that time.

"The entire house had to be emptied, dried, aerated and repaired. Significant amounts of rubbish were thrown away, damaged items had to be cleared and salvaged and new furniture, clothes and other household items had to be purchased."

The pair say they were unable to move back into the home for four months and the property still has some damage.

The claim also asserts that the Playford Council failed to provide proper drainage for Park Road and failed to inspect and maintain the river levees on the southern side of the Gawler River.

While the exact amount of damages being sought has not been disclosed, the matter has been transferred to the District Court for consideration because it exceeds $40,000.


© ABC 2013

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