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Mixed emotions as Brisbane locals remember floods

Sunday January 13, 2013 - 18:07 EDT

Two years on from the devastating 2011 floods, many Brisbane and Ipswich families are only now getting back on their feet.

The anniversary of disaster which ruined hundreds of homes and businesses in the cities is being met with mixed emotions.


Two years ago the Lam family was reeling.

Their home at Goodna, Ipswich, was devastated by the floods, which saw water rise quickly to the ceiling, ruining everything it soaked.

They family was not insured and have slowly rebuilt their home themselves, with the help of generous donations.

But Hai Lam says she still has her moments.

"When the rain [comes] I am scared. Very scared," she said.

But her son Lam Hua says it has not all been bad.

"We lost something and we gained something and we live in the best country in the world, which is Australia," he said.

They say this year they hope to bring their garden back to its pre-flood state.

In the Brisbane suburb of Rocklea the 'mud army' had its work cut out for it in the wake of the floods.

John Hunter-Farrell's Rocklea house was flooded to the roof, as was his neighbour's house.

He did not get insurance and has slowly rebuilt his life, but says it is not worth dwelling on.

"It left its mark, it flogged the families that were here and put a few of them in a box," he said.

"A natural disaster is not the end of the world, it's just the end of your comfortable life for a year of two."

Robin Hunter-Farrell says it has been an emotional time for the neighbourhood, as many people had to leave because their homes were badly damaged or deemed too great a future flood-risk.

The Rocklea resident says some who had lived there for 50 years found it too much.

"They were in their late 80s some into their 90s and it was their time to go, but the flood hastened it they were pretty much departed within 12 months," she said.

"You feel that they just could have had a nice easy time passing peacefully at home and instead they were still farmed out either with family or in other accommodation."

Brisbane City Council bought several homes since the flood, after the future flood risk was deemed too great.

Many of those homes have already been demolished.

The swelling of the Brisbane River also devastated low-lying and waterfront businesses.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland chief executive officer Nick Behrens says about 82,000 businesses were directly affected by the floods but soon began trading again.

"They were affected either through full or partial flood inundation, loss of power, or lack of access to their business premises," he said.

"Those businesses that have not been able to return to normal operations have in some instances, because of the extent of the damage, some businesses have had to walk away from their business premises and close.

"We are continuing to hear a number of businesses that are having ongoing issues with their insurer in terms of a payout."

The former owner of the popular Cafe San Marco at South Bank says 19 years of his life was destroyed in a day by the floods.

Con Castrisos says he lost everything, was not covered by the right insurance and found the prospect of rebuilding too painful.

"I was devastated. It was my baby because my family had set that restaurant up and we had experience the birth of all our children whilst at the restaurant," he said.

"So it was one of my children and I had a lot of good times and it was a great venue for Brisbane and it became a bit of a meeting place for a lot of folks."

Mr Castrisos says he does not believe weather conditions were entirely to blame for the disaster.

"Whether the government acted or the water authority acted responsibility and reasonably I have my doubts because this enormous deluge was coming and the dams were full," he said.

"We left it too late, so it seems like someone made a mistake somewhere along the line and there is a number of class actions happening so we see what eventuates from all of that."

Brisbane's Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says the 2011 summer floods caused more than $400 million worth of damage to council assets.

"From a city government perspective the cost of this event was around $400 million, a little over," he said.

"But we will continue to undertake all of the works that we need to like the 406 parks that were impacted through this event."

Councillor Quirk says the council has completed extensive repairs, including 465 kilometres of storm water drains, 13,000 square metres of footpaths and 17 bridges.


© ABC 2013

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