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Cyclone-ravaged farmers get help from city slickers to rebuild after devastation

Isabella Higgins, Thursday July 6, 2017 - 16:32 EST
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Volunteers work on repairing fences torn down by floods at Clarke Creek after Cyclone Debbie. - ABC

The road to recovery for a small central Queensland community after Cyclone Debbie has been long and difficult.

But now, the arrival of dozens of volunteers from all over Australia is helping locals to speed up the rebuild.

Clarke Creek is home to about 300 people, many who live on large remote cattle properties, who say they received little warning of the record-breaking rain and subsequent flooding headed their way.

Local rivers broke their banks after more than 1,000 millimetres of rain fell in hours in parts of the catchment.

Residents described a "wall of floodwater" taking over their properties and moving with shocking speed and force.

Damage to the small community was huge — buildings at the local school were split in two, a nearby petrol station washed away and much prized livestock was lost in the rapid waters.

Many property owners have been left with hectares upon hectares of muddied land needing new fences and a clean up that could take months or even years.

Grazier Eric Simon said the arrival of volunteers from all corners of the country has been a "godsend" and has helped get months worth of work done in just weeks.

"Probably a third of our country went under water," he said.

"A lot of water, of weeds, flood damage, top soil, washed away [and] 30-odd kilometres of fences washed away.

"Without them [volunteers], we'd probably be another three months before we'd get all of our fences finished.

"It would've been a big production loss without them."

City slicker volunteers shocked by devastation

About 80 people have stopped in to the volunteer base camp, run by charity group BlazeAid, to lend a hand.

Camp co-ordinator Mary Howarth said it was difficult for people to understand the scale of the clean up job.

"Their struggle is going all year," she said.

"A lot of them won't know for a year how much stock they've got and how much stock they've lost.

"They do it pretty tough [and] people, especially city people, don't realise what they go through.

"It's not until you're out there and you see what their hardships are."

Volunteer Mike Conroy travelled from Melbourne to help out, and said he did not realise how badly people had suffered.

"It's a hell of an experience for a city slicker just to see what Mother Nature can do. It's a huge shock," he said.

"Coming from Melbourne, we had no idea what we were coming to.

"You just do it for the satisfaction of helping out someone, especially our farmers."

The volunteer camp is expected to stay set up in Clarke Creek for another six weeks.


© ABC 2017

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