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Queensland flood devastation brings strangers together to help bury thousands of animals

By Kristy Sexton-McGrath and staff, Saturday February 23, 2019 - 11:28 EDT
ABC image
Grazier David Batt speaks to brothers, Ash and Matt, who will help those in the region for 10 days. - ABC

A band of friends have travelled hundreds of kilometres into the epicentre of the flood disaster to do the job no one else wants to do — digging mass graves for thousands of dead cattle and sheep.



It is a grisly task that could take the graziers weeks or possibly months to do using tractors, but with the help of a group of six strangers, the task will now take just days.

WARNING: Images included below may upset some people.

The men — brothers Ash and Matt Travers, Brenton Woods, Mitch Wright, Andrew Slack and Kyle Mattingley — have trucked their bulldozers, loaders and excavators into properties around Winton in central-west Queensland.



They are picking carcasses from the fence lines, digging holes and burying the dead and in turn, helping graziers to move on.

"It's very ordinary out here, there's a lot of dead cattle, some in big piles, some out by themselves," Ash Travers said.

"Some died lonely."

during the floods earlier this month.

Some drowned, others froze, and of those that survived, many were in such poor condition they had to be put down.



The volunteers, who include a diesel fitter, a removalist, and a plumber, travelled about 600 kilometres from their homes in Springsure and Emerald to help.

They organised trucks to donate their time to transport the heavy machinery into Winton, and farmers in central Queensland donated 7,000 litres of diesel towards the effort.

"When you hear the stories of people losing up to 75 per cent of their stock, their fences, everything, we just wanted to give them a hand," Mr Travers said.



Heat, stench overpowering

David and Christine Batt from Nuken Station, 110 kilometres north-west of Winton, were the first graziers helped out by the group.

Mr Batt lost 2,000 sheep and around 250 cattle — about half his livestock.



He said the men, who he does not know, have put in a huge effort in very difficult conditions, with the stench and heat overpowering.

"They bought all their own food, all their own fuel and enough cakes and biscuits to keep us going for months," Mr Batt said.

"They started with me and now they're heading north to other properties, and that's where most of the deaths are.



"They have 10 days to do as much as they can, they have jobs and one of them has even got a baby that's only a couple of weeks old.

"I can't tell you how much we appreciate everything they're doing for us."

Mr Batt said he was not sure what he was going to do with the dead livestock, before help arrived.

"All we could think to do was to let them all rot down and we could deal with them with smaller tractors and it would have gone on for months and reminded us everyday of what had happened, " he said.

"We had to get rid of them, we have to move on, get them out of sight and buried and we can start again and get back in the game."



Army pull out of area, but money available to bury cattle

Property owners in north-west Queensland will be eligible for a $5,000 to help dispose of the cattle.

Members of the Defence Force visited Richmond on Thursday to announce a carcass disposal plan.



"It's what they've told us and we've assessed is the most efficient way that we can support their health, their safety and wellbeing," Joint Task Force 646 commander Brigadier Stephen Jobson said.

The army is withdrawing on the ground support from the area, with State and local governments taking over responsiblity for the clean-up efforts.

Flooding, but still no rain for Birdsville

Meanwhile, floodwaters are surrounding the outback Queensland community of Birdsville but not a drop of rain has fallen in the drought-affected region.

The water from torrential rain in the north-west of the state is now flowing down the Diamantina and into the Channel Country.



"A little bit unique this flood in that the area is actually in drought," Diamantina Shire Mayor Geoff Morton said.

"We haven't had any rain here at all this year, in fact the last decent rain I had was mid-last year.

"This river will give those that have the river a real shot in the arm."

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited Julia Creek on Thursday and said 730 staff were working on community recovery statewide.



So far 71,000 people had received nearly $14 million in hardship payments and a charity appeal had raised another $6.7 million.

"The floodwaters may be gone in most parts, what I've heard from speaking with people in these communities who were badly impacted is that they're hurting," she said.



"They will be dealing with this disaster for a long time to come."

.

A major unknown cost however is the flood-damaged Mount Isa to Townsville rail line.

Queensland Rail chief executive Nick Easy said more than 200 sites had sustained extreme erosion, and there were many areas of track washouts, scouring and bridge damage.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said fixing the train line was a matter of urgency.

"Those transport links are vital for our community because a lot of jobs really hang off the back of that mining sector … and the agricultural sector," Cr Hill said.


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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