Smithtown begins to dry out after the floods

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Comments (5)

Ian Stehbens on June 2, 2009

I posted this image, because of the recent flooding in this town. Ian

Brigid Glanville reports from Kempsey for the ABC, on the cleanup after the floods in Smithtown, a dairying centre on the lower Macleay Valley:

While most roads along the New South Wales north coast are now open and power is restored to homes, the clean-up has only just begun.

Towns surrounding Kempsey [such as Smihtown] were hardest hit and many of them have been isolated for a week.

Disaster recovery centres are now open for affected farmers and residents.

It is business as usual at the general store in the small village of Smithtown, near Kempsey on the mid-north coast.

Store owner Lyn Brown lives next door. She is in the process of cleaning up her house which was flooded.

"The water has gone now. There are a couple of rooms that have still got a little bit of mud in until I can get to them," she said.

"We are to the stage where most of the water has gone away now but the mud hangs around and that really lingers.

"And that is where it becomes the hardest I think, because while the water is there you run on adrenalin but once the water goes away and you are left with all the mud and the smell of it and the dampness and mildew and that, that is when it really hits home and that is when it starts to get to you."

Lyn Brown was in Smithtown for the 2001 floods and says having been through it before does not make this time any easier.

"It has just been very long, late nights. Very hard, lots of clean-up - shovelling [out] our garages. Piles of rubbish, piles of mud everywhere, [it's] pretty heartbreaking.

Fewer than 1,000 people live in Smithtown. It was one of the hardest hit areas in the floods, and has been isolated for the past week.

Spirits are high, but the clean-up is taking its toll and as resident Patrice King explains the mud is the worst part.

"It has been really hard. The mud all around the house and inside the house now," she said. "I am oblivious to the smell yet, I'm just concentrating on the mud."

EVA_L on June 3, 2009

Dear Yan, how sad that we are studying the geography of catastrophes!

Greetings from Kiev. Eva

Ian Stehbens on June 4, 2009

Dear Eva,

The coastal valleys are familiar with flooding, but this was an unusually big deluge and much higher flood. Thanks for your concern.

I have been involved in the past in helping in the clean up process, and I think particularly of a massive flood in Brisbane in 1974. It is heart-breaking for one keeps seeing every item that has been destroyed, examines it carefully, wishes it could be restored then has to make the decision to discard.

And wet carpets with inches of mud on them are surprisingly the most difficult to remove from a home. Refrigerators and freezers have floated and capsized, and the wall panelling has to be removed and the structure hosed out before new panelling goes up.

Then of course there is the trauma, of wondering when the next time will be when this will happen again. And the economic loss is hard to, including the loss in property values.

Photos can usually be replaced from the collections of friends and relatives, unless of course one has only ever accumulated them on C: and haven't stored them on Panoramio.

Morning greetings dear Eva,


Marilyn Whiteley on June 13, 2009

Thank you for sharing the sobering report and the scene with its beautiful hope-giving light.

Incidentally, this is one of the rare photos where a canopy of wires actually adds a good compositional element!!


Ian Stehbens on June 13, 2009

Thank you Marilyn. It was a bright sunny morning, and the farms were saturated by recent rain, but the floods were yet to come, when I recorded this. I actually had a National Geographic cap on at the time, so one of the locals was quite flattered thinking that Nat Geog had turned up in his Smithtown.

So even for this image it was necessary to use the tripod to ensure the wires were sharp! and to look the part!


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on June 2, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens