Home repairs sluggish in Bundaberg as council employs new technology to prevent next floodBy John Taylor, Tuesday August 20, 2013 - 07:26 EST
Repairs have yet to begin in about 700 homes affected by the record flood that devastated Bundaberg in southern Queensland in January.
Bundaberg Regional Council Deputy Mayor David Batt says more than 2,000 homes had water over the floorboards when the Burnett River peaked, but the recovery is proving to be a slow, arduous process.
"There's at least 700 of those [homes] that still haven't even been started to be fixed yet," Councillor Batt said.
"About 700 are now occupied, with work continuing on the remainder.
"It's a huge effort, huge rebuild, but we are trying to support those people get back in their homes."
More than a metre of water went through the north Bundaberg home shared by James Welch and his three daughters, two of whom have autism.
Filthy, stinking mud went through nearly everything.
After the exclusion zone was lifted and he saw his home, Mr Welch, a fitter and turner, was not sure what to call his property.
"This is, was home," he said.
"Was, is - haven't defined that yet."
Six months on, his family has not returned. They have been placed in rented accommodation by his insurer while it assesses the damage.
"They've decided the house was repairable, then they decided it wasn't," Mr Welch said.
"They're just making their mind up and I'm sure they'll eventually tell me when they figure it out."
Plasterer Terry Haase has spent the past few months repairing homes.
"I have been on certain jobs where people are still living in tents or sheds and accommodation they can put on their property," he said.
"When you see things like that it can move you a little bit."
Octogenarian left with just a bag of clothes
Not everyone still has a home.
Isabella Shulze turned 80 on Australia Day and had a helicopter ride after her house flooded.
It was washed off its stumps and came to rest 400 metres away.
Standing where the house used to be, her daughter Lillian Turner says "the only reason it stayed there [is] it got caught on a light pole".
"Otherwise King Neptune would have had it," she said.
She says all her mother has left is a bag of clothes.
Ms Turner's mother has never been to the site - she has dementia and her children believe it would not be appropriate.
"One day you can tell her the place was washed away," her son George Mackellar said.
"Ten minutes later, 15 minutes later she wants to ... go back to the house."
Council to use Google drive-by technology to predict risk
While Bundaberg rebuilds, it is also preparing for the next flood.
A flood study of the enormous Bundaberg catchment, billed as groundbreaking, has been finished.
Councillor Batt says it is a major part of a new plan to be released in May that will tell residents when rivers are at certain heights what that means for their homes.
"Whether they need to evacuate, whether they need to sandbag their homes, all those types of things," Councillor Batt said.
"The more information we can give them, the quicker we can give them [it], then the decision they can make can be a lot better."
The council took a lead from Google and used a car with sophisticated technology to measure floorboard heights of homes in flood-prone areas, replacing the old method of surveyors physically going to individual homes.
"Now the technology that we‚??ve identified through our staff again has been to drive a vehicle similar to [what] Google Earth [uses], driving along doing your roads and they can actually pick up your floorboards from the video as well as using the satellites on the vehicles to work that out," he said.
"It‚??s saving time and money."
Ms Turner says she would have liked greater warning about the January flood.
"We managed to save a few photos out of the house when we were allowed to go into it," she said.
But there is only one photo of her father, who died when she was 10.
"Now we have nothing but a wedding photo - we have no family photos," she said.
"That's probably the hardest thing ‚?? just one wedding photo."
© ABC 2013
More breaking news
The former owner of the Grantham quarry that allegedly contributed to the fatal 2011 flood has said the western embankment beside the quarry was a natural landmark and not manmade.
Strengthening El Nino to reduce rainfall in northern and south-east Australia but wetter conditions for Western Australia
The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed the El Nino pattern is strengthening in the Pacific and is likely to persist into next year.
The impact of the drought is expected to be the main theme as Queensland's bush councils hold a major conference today.