“Brethren Army” fight to save Maryborough
Large sandbagging and food supply effort when Maryborough floods higher than expected!
On 26 January 2013 ex-tropical cyclone Oswald came down the east coast of Australia dumping massive amounts of rain on the coastal communities and river catchment areas. It commenced raining in Maryborough, Queensland, on the afternoon of Thursday 27th and continued until mid-day Sunday, during this time delivering over half a metre of water over the complete catchment area of the Mary River.
By 7am on Sunday the 30th the Mary River was rising fast and reached 5 metres, cutting off one of the main bridges across town. With the river continuing to rise, later that afternoon the Plymouth Brethren started contacting the commercial premises that would be first to be inundated. Most of these were eager to accept the help to move their stock and sandbag windows etc. including relocating 90 vehicles from the local Ford and Hyundai dealer to higher ground.
The council set up a flood levy bank between the centre of town and the lower down business area which was already under water by this time the river having reached around 9 metres. The Rapid Response Team of the Church offered to man the levy bank and to monitor the situation throughout the night; also helping some more shop owners to clear out their stock.
Monday morning saw the river at 9.5 metres and still rising so more support teams were called in with eventually up to 50 members hard at work sandbagging, helping clear out shops and distributing food and drink to those working or being affected. A food tent was set up on the town hall green by the Plymouth Rapid Response Team and it became the central point for constant drink distribution and 3 meals a day for the next couple of days. Largely the food and drink was donated by locals including Supa IGA, Coles, BIG W, Channel 7, mix FM and Apex.
By this time the water had reached the end of the existing levy bank, so an extension was built by the Rapid Response Team using sandbags, which later proved to have held back the flood from the centre of town for an extra 12 hrs only being breached during Monday night when the river cracked over the 10 metre mark. This allowed all day Monday for the commercial centre of town to clear stock and install sandbags in preparation for the water. The river eventually peaked at 10.7m at around 8am Tuesday morning (the largest flood since 1974, which was 11m) inundating up to 50 commercial businesses and 150 residential dwellings.
The water began to recede quickly after this and the clean-up was able to begin by Tuesday afternoon. The food tent continued to churn out meals and drinks and the ‘Brethren army’ and other volunteers turned to de-sandbagging and assisting the shop owners with the heart breaking task of cleaning out the thick sludge of mud and oil and work continued throughout the next couple of days as the water receded back to its normal level by Friday.
The Brethren support teams were scaled back on Friday and the food tent became a water supply point only on Saturday.
The clean-up of residential areas will continue for weeks yet and rebuilding will be an on-going effort for many months to come.