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Repairs continuing more than two years after Hobart's 1-in-100-year flood

By Edith Bevin, Saturday May 16, 2020 - 10:25 EST
ABC licensed image
Suzy Browne moved back into her home after Hobart's 2018 floods, but others are still waiting. - ABC licensed

Just over two years ago, Hobart residents woke to cars floating down streets and houses and roads inundated with floodwater and mud.

Walking tracks were washed away and many homes were damaged.

Suzy Browne's home in South Hobart was one of them.

As floodwaters turned her street into a river and poured into her home on May 11, 2018, she and her two children sought refuge on the roof.

"Water was coming into the front of the house," she recalled.

"A car was parked just up the way, and some debris got stuck underneath it and it was literally funnelling the water directly into the corner of the house.

"The house was just filling up and up and up, because it was then coming from both sides."

The lie of the land was one of the big issues for Ms Browne too.

"The biggest issue we had out of the back of the house was that it [the water flow] came through McRobies tip, and if you look at the topography it kind of went diagonally through everyone's backyards or front yards and went straight into the back of my house," she said.

"It was thigh-deep, grey, murky, sludgy, dirty, stinking water and it happened in an instance.

"We noticed the carpet was damp … and then the water started to come in and then all of a sudden, whoosh."

Safety was found on the roof.

She and her family were finally able to move back home in August last year.

"It was just drawn out and tedious and difficult, but we're here and it's great," Ms Browne said.

"Yes, it was traumatic and yes, we lost everything, and yes we were out of our house for a long time, and it was difficult living in another place, we were displaced.

"But we weren't hurt, nobody lost their lives.

"In July and August of the same year in floods in America, a boat tipped over and a whole family bar two people were wiped out, lost their lives — that's tragic.

"This was just inconvenient."

And she was one of the lucky ones.

Not back home yet

Keri Taylor is still waiting for final clearance to move back into her house.

"It's been very stressful — to start with, we were living in Airbnbs and hotels and we were moving every few weeks," she said.

"The storm was on a Thursday night and the insurance assessors came on the Monday morning next, and they said to us that it would be a very quick fix, it would be eight weeks.

"So, the eight weeks wasn't quite right."

She remembers the noise of the water rushing past, carrying bins and rubbish from the tip and surroundings streets.

Her South Hobart street had become a river and her home was filling with water.

"We just grabbed every blanket, every pillow, every towel that we could and blocked up the doors where the water was coming through, but we actually couldn't stop it coming through the floor boards as well," Ms Taylor said.

Three of her neighbours are still unable to return because of flood damage.

More safety tests were done on her home last week.

Ms Taylor is hopeful after two long years, she might finally be allowed to move back in.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared the Hobart flooding a catastrophe.

The damage in Hobart city alone was valued at more than $20 million.

Hobart City Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said insurance and emergency payments would not cover all of the repair bill and the council had to find $4 million.

The city council flood damage repairs are unlikely to be finished before Christmas.

"Even though it's been two years, it's still continuing and it has had a major impact on the city," Ms Reynolds said.

"A lot of our fire trails were damaged, many of the walking tracks on the mountain were damaged, many of these rivulets that take the water down from the mountain down to the river were also really badly damaged.

"The work is significant: $20 million worth of damage to the city."

The Kingborough area was also hard hit in the 2018 floods.

Mayor Dean Winter said repairs had been completed but the job the council now faced was flood-proofing the region.

He said it is one of the reasons ratepayers have had to pay an extra $1.5 million this year.

"A one-in-100-year flood is going to have a huge impact anywhere it happens, and when it happens in the middle of a suburban area like this it was pretty significant," Mr Winter said.

"With climate change, we're expecting to see larger flooding events more often, and our flood studies are telling us that the risk of inundation is very large.

"Areas like Kingston Beach, Blackmans Bay, Snug, Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, all those areas are prone to flooding and we need to make sure our infrastructure is built to handle larger flood events more often."

New planning controls are being introduced in Kingston, Blackmans Bay and Snug, with the risk of future major floods in mind.


© ABC 2020

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