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Many Springfield Lakes families still homeless more than a month after destructive hailstorm

By Anna Hartley, Thursday December 3, 2020 - 08:11 EDT
ABC image
Tracy Fry's Springfield Lakes home was damaged in a hail storm on October 31. - ABC

As an emergency department nurse, Tracy Fry is used to handling extreme situations.

But she said nothing could have prepared her for the destruction brought by violent hailstorms that tore through her suburb of Springfield Lakes, west of Brisbane, causing more than $305 million in damage.

Ms Fry, her partner Jenzel Quitolbo and their two dogs are still homeless more than a month after 14-centimetre hailstones smashed through their ceiling on October 31.

"It sounded like there was someone on the roof firing a bazooka at the ceiling, it was deafening," she said.

"You could just hear room after room with the ceilings caving in, there was water everywhere.

"It was amazing how 10-15 minutes of a storm can destroy so many people's lives."

The Ipswich Hospital nurse was dealt another blow when her insurance told her repairs would take months.

She said they would be lucky to be back in their 'dream home' by Easter, let alone Christmas.

"I don't see it happening any sooner than in six months'," Ms Fry said.

"Material is limited due to COVID, everyone is trying to get their homes fixed ? builders are flat out.

"I've cancelled Christmas, who wants to be in a stranger's home over Christmas? It's heartbreaking."

The couple were put into an Airbnb for three weeks before moving into a temporary rental in another suburb.

"We are sitting on camping chairs and have a blow-up mattress [in the rental] because everything else was damaged. We just want to get back home," Ms Fry said.

"I have said if they just put a roof on our [Springfield Lakes home], I would camp inside, I really would. We just want to come home."

Renters offering $200 more a week rejected as demand spikes

Naomi Thompson has lived in Springfield Lakes for more than 20 years.

Ms Thompson, her husband Chris Westwood and their two children had to leave after hail destruction made their home unliveable.

It took three weeks before they were allowed back inside their rental to salvage what was left of their family treasures, photos and possessions.

"We went from moving into our dream home to being homeless, with our entire contents written off," Ms Thompson said.

"It was absolutely frightening. My husband was out voting as I called him and said, 'You need to come home the ceiling is falling in'.

"My son is seven and a half [and] is traumatised, he was never scared of storms at all but if it gets rainy or windy he panics. People are just broken."

The family of four were forced to live out of a nearby hotel for three weeks and said rental demand had skyrocketed after hundreds of people were left homeless by the storms.

"The market is shocking. You have 40 to 50 people applying for the same house, I know one lady who offered up to $200 more a week and still didn't get it," Ms Thompson said.

The family has just been approved for a rental in the area but said others have had to move as far as Wynnum in Brisbane's east to find a suitable home.

"I don't think people understand the full extent of the damage in Springfield, we feel forgotten," Ms Thompson said.

Mental toll of destructive storms

Paul and Trudy Rotherman are two of the lucky ones.

They can still live in their home just minutes away from Ms Fry and Ms Thompson's ? but fear any significant rain will further damage their roof which was severely damaged.

"I am worried, if I see we're going to get more rain, I start freaking out, I really do. I start thinking I have to get buckets," Mr Rotherham said.

"It's very draining ? especially after the year we've all had ? and it'll be that way until things get fixed. "

Ms Rotherham also said insurers took close to three weeks to let them know they were covered.

"Trudy broke down in tears on the phone to them at one point, I was very worried we might not be insured," Mr Rotherham said.

"It was disheartening."

Why will repairs take so long?

Phil Breeze from Master Builders said COVID-19 was part of the reason the repairs would take months.

"We've had the home builder grants, which have been very successful [so] our builders already had ample work on. There has also been reported shortage of some materials and timbers and trade, some people are asking for carpenters for example," he said.

"Just until the other day [when borders opened to NSW and VIC] we could not bring other trades from interstate so hopefully that might help but we're hamstrung by labour and materials and there is a shortage.

"In any catastrophic event, it's nearly impossible to get people back into place quickly ? people unfortunately just have to be patient.

"In Springfield, nature has delivered that blow and no-one could have predicted it, hail events come out of nowhere and unless you build concrete bunkers, it's very difficult to forecast where these events will occur then and build buildings that are totally resilient to hail."


© ABC 2020

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