Flooding sent lives into overdrive

Landmark Cloncurry's Zoe Searle recalls frantic days after monsoon


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Zoe Searle has been in the north west for 15 years and says the people affected by February's monsoon were like family. Picture - Sally Cripps.

Zoe Searle has been in the north west for 15 years and says the people affected by February's monsoon were like family. Picture - Sally Cripps.

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Being there for each other was the glue that held north west Queensland communities together when life went into overdrive in February.

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Being there for each other was the glue that held north west Queensland communities together when life went into overdrive in February.

That's how Landmark Cloncurry staff member Zoe Searle summarised the rollercoaster months since the rain and wind blew normal life away.

"It's something I hope I never have to experience again," she said.

"You had to think fast. People were ringing saying this is what we want, this is what we need.

"We got in as quickly as we could. We knew some sort of rain event was coming so we had a few extra stores on hand.

"It was calf crumbles and weaner feed and weaner milk. A lot of people were trying to keep poddies alive and that sort of thing."

Staff from the Ernest Henry mine bought up the last of the branch's lucerne and grassy hay to feed the cattle stranded on their road, and they were constantly driving back and forth to the airport with goods for helicopter pilots to ferry to properties.

"You had no time to think," Ms Searle said.

That was after everyone began ringing once they'd assessed their situations to order what they needed.

"These people - I've been up in this country for 15 years and we've known these people through a drought at very personal levels and claim half of them as family," Ms Searle said. I'll never forget that day - it was heartbreaking - all these people giving me a quick glimpse of what they were dealing with."

The urgent demands came at a time when others in the region had had virtually no rain and were trying to organise the first round of their musters, making for a mentally draining situation.

On top of that, Ms Searle said she had become a "very unqualified psychiatrist" for the last three-and-a-half months, offering a shoulder to lean on.

All of this while dealing with her own feelings, losing a horse in the weather event.

"Amy who I work with, she lost a dog because it got so cold.

"It was probably nothing compared to everyone else but we still had to deal with that."

Ms Searle said they'd had to put a brave face on and reassure people they were going to get through the crisis.

The disaster has brought everyone closer though, she said, as people realised they couldn't manage something of this magnitude alone.

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Donations have been rolling in from throughout Australia, and continue to do so.

"We're still getting pallets of stuff delivered here to be donated to graziers and affected people in town," Ms Searle said. "We're still getting used as a flood appeal depot. We got three or four pallets the other day from Broome, stuff from south east Queensland."

And people can't wait for the day when they're able to stand on their feet and repay the generosity should a call go out from other parts of Australia in future.

Ms Searle said she'd heard a family that had lost 85 per cent of their herd pledge to load up their vehicles and head out, because they knew how much it meant.

Apart from a hardship grant of $180, she said there had been no financial assistance for people like herself but added that she wasn't looking for any aid for herself.

She believed the next six months would be a time when people will really need support, as winter makes its mark, especially on the black soil downs that had no follow-up rain and paddocks had topsoil washed away.

"This next bit will be the tough part for them," she said.

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