Mar 04, 2022

Acts of courage and kindness as elderly rescued from NSW floods

Seniors rescued from floods
Images: 9News.

One such story of survival is of the courageous rescue of a senior woman from inside her severely flooded Lismore residence by two senior constables from the Oxley police district.

A statement on Facebook by NSW police reads that SES volunteers and the officers were navigating down Barnes Street calling out for any signs of life, they were able to make out “a faint call for help from inside a home with water up to the eaves of the house”.

An officer “dove through an open window” and found a 93-year-old woman “floating on a mattress, with no more than 20cm of room between the roof and the water level”. 

She was maneuovered through a window by being placed on a boogie board, and then on to a rescue boat.

Louis Hollman, from Louis Hollman Electrical, has also been embarking on numerous rescue missions over the last few days, teaming up with two colleagues in a boat, looking out for anyone stranded. 

“I was seeing houses submerged in water, families losing everything,” Mr Hollman conveyed to The Guardian Australia.

At the RSL LifeCare at Home, the local aged care residence a stone’s throw up the road, windows had already started to slowly be covered by the elevated waters.

Bill Curry, a marketing manager from Lennox Head – a 40-minute drive from Lismore – said, “There was water up to the second or third floor.

“I have a lifesaving background of 20 years,” he added. “Lifesavers naturally take action.”

For close to four hours, Mr Curry and a friend joined a team of SES members and volunteers to help organise and navigate the removal of 64 senior persons through windows, onto a slippery roof and lowered down two metres into waiting boats.

Understandably many of the seniors were alarmed and confused, unable to walk, Mr Curry recalled. 

He said the process of getting each resident through the windows, and down into the bobbing boats as “very difficult”.

Processes were thrown together quickly, a staircase needed to lift people out of a window – created from a microwave, and two tables of different sizes. 

When that process was no longer working, it was quickly decided to use sheets to lift each resident onto the veranda roof.

“There was a risk of falling through the roof,” Mr Curry shared. 

“And if you fall through the roof, and you have an old person, it is going to be difficult to stop them drowning.”

However, as the sun started to go down, “it was our only route”.

The rescue teams, comprised of SES volunteers, army staff, a female police officer, had “started work Sunday evening and hadn’t slept”, as well as a boat driver, aged care staff and other volunteers.

Mr Curry explained, “You can’t understand how severe it is.

“Now the water is going down,” Mr Hollman noted, explaining that he and some other local contractors are “going around to see what’s left”.

He revealed that the majority of electric meter boxes and switchboards will need to be replaced, as “getting at least some power back is essential”.

Having “no power makes it even more unsafe”.

“You can’t cook fresh food, or keep water cool,” he outlined. “At night-time, even having just one light makes you feel less lonely.”

Help has been coming from all areas, even out of state. A nine-strong team from Sikh Volunteers Australia drove all the way from Victoria to NSW through the night so as to be able to serve fresh meals and water to those in Lismore affected by the floods. 

Leaving Melbourne at 6am on Tuesday and making it to Woolgoolga at 4am the next day, they immediately proceeded to prepare meals at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple. From there the team made their way to Lismore, where they have since been providing the community affected with food and support. 

“We have received lots of calls from Lismore,” a spokesperson detailed. “They are especially asking for water.

“We know we can’t do everything, but we can help a little bit.”

Further efforts of 45 Fijian abattoir workers, who had only been in Australia for 21 days, working through the night to help save the lives of over 60 residents from a nursing home, has been a reminder of the courage and kindness of many throughout such a destructive time.

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