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Flood residents frustrated by food shortages

Thursday January 31, 2013 - 14:23 EDT
ABC image
Residents are returning home as the swollen Clarence River starts to recede. - ABC

Residents in the flood-affected town of Maclean in northern New South Wales are becoming increasingly angry at a lack of essential supplies.

The ABC has made it into Maclean and has found shop shelves are almost bare.

The owner of the only grocery store, Bob Little, says people in town were panic-buying essentials.

He says residents from more isolated parts of the region are worried about how long it will take for fresh supplies to be trucked in.

The State Emergency Service delivered pallets to Mr Little's store this morning but he says it will take at least 14 trips to ferry all of the products he needs in to the area.

Locals who are trying to head out of Maclean to collect groceries are waiting with frustration to cross the flooded Pacific Highway.

They have been told it could be another five days before they can get through.

Taking stock

The State emergency service is warning that people returning to towns on the north coast to be careful as evacuation orders are lifted.

Around 23 thousand people have been isolated by flood waters across the state with the majority of them living downstream from Lismore and Grafton.

An evacuation order for Ulmarra has been lifted and the height of the Clarence River has halved.

The focus is now on reconnecting power supplies and getting supplies to areas that may be cut off for several more days.

Most schools in the region will be closed until tomorrow while water levels drop and suppliers work to restore power.

The SES has arranged for food, fodder and medical supplies to be delivered to isolated areas this morning and expects emergency deliveries will need to continue for at least the next few days.

SES Commissioner Murray Kear says floodwaters are receding but it will be days before the river returns to normal levels.

"The Clarence River now is dropping fairly rapidly," he said.

"The day before we were looking at river heights of over eight metres, it's down now to four and a half metres.

"Still, a couple of villages there still isolated, Brushgrove and Cowper are still evacuated."

Commissioner Kear says the hard work of cleaning up is now beginning.

"That clean up will be a huge job with councils, with NSW SES volunteers, really all agencies across Government coming into these towns making sure that not only that the environment's cleaned, but also that people are recovering and trying to get back to normal as soon as possible," he said.

Planning is underway in the Clarence Valley to help flood affected farmers, businesses and residents.

Mayor Ritchie Williamson says a multi-agency Flood Recovery Centre could open its doors as early as today.

"We have a massive job ahead of us.... after the biggest flood, we are going to need the biggest recovery effort," he said.

"That is going to require a concentrated effort from all government departments at all levels to ensure that people recover in the fastest possible way, and the shortest possible time."

Meanwhile, people are being warned to steer clear of north coast beaches after reports of dead animals being washed out to sea with the floodwaters.

Floating debris travelling out of the region's swollen creeks and rivers after the storms is also creating a health issue.

Emergency Coordinator for Surf Life Saving Far North Coast Jimmy Keough says swimmers should stay out of the water for a few days.

"We are gonna have some issues with water clarity," he said.

"To the south and the Clarence area there's reports of major debris washing up on the beaches - tree stumps, trees and some deceased farm animals so we are asking people to take care, it can be a health issue."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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