Operation QUEENSLAND FLOOD ASSIST II
Soldiers and civilians cleaning up in Bundaberg
Construction of a modular bridge in Bundaberg
Soldiers from 2nd 14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) dismounted to find the town relatively untouched on the afternoon of January 30.
But after crossing into North Bundaberg the next day, devastation greeted Troopers Brody Young, Ben Wallis and their fellow cavalrymen.
“It was destroyed. Everything covered in mud, it was just wrecked,” Trooper Young said.
“Houses were lifted off their stumps and moved.
“I’ve never seen streets that were two feet (61cm) under mud or you walk into a house and there’s eight inches (20cm) of mud in the lounge room.”
With 5000 people displaced by the floods, the soldiers started checking the North Bundaberg area for bodies of those who hadn’t made it out in time.
“The first day it was pretty full-on,” Trooper Wallis said.
“Just to see the power that water has, how much stuff can get wrecked.
“After being there for a couple of days, you get into a rhythm and start to work through.”
After two days searching, the soldiers found themselves also assisting the RSPCA to look after pets left behind in their owners’ rush to evacuate.
The force then started helping the “Mud Army” clear damaged appliances, waterlogged furniture and carpets from homes devastated by the floodwater, which rose to three meters in some places.
“There were washing machines in bedrooms, fridges in bedrooms.
It was pretty full-on,” Trooper Wallis said.
“The mud we’ve been walking in isn’t all that deep but when you’re lifting quite heavy stuff like cupboards and fridges and they’re all covered in mud, you get mud all over you.”
Residents were asked to sign a waiver before soldiers entered their houses, but no-one had a problem with it, according to Trooper Wallis.
“They were ecstatic, everybody’s house we went to was more than happy for us to get in and help them,” he said.
“They couldn’t be more appreciative from what I could tell.”
Trooper Young said the locals put on a good reception for the soldiers all over the town.
“When you’re in the shops or they’re driving in a car next to you, everyone’s thanking you,” he said.
The 209 soldiers that deployed as part of the Emergency Support Force were expected to head home on February 8, when sappers from 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment finished repairing a bridge into North Bundaberg.
Flood relief efforts summary
• Bundaberg Hospital: 14 soldiers helped staff move water-damaged medical equipment out of about 30 rooms and centralised it for pick-up later.
• North Bundaberg: 23 soldiers worked with Fire and Rescue to search abandoned buildings for missing people. The urban search and rescue teams were pleased with the progress made thanks to the Army’s assistance.
• Roads: Sappers from 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment cleared roads and drained large pools of water from holes in collapsed roads. They used plant equipment to remove wrecked vehicles and debris for choke points and access routes.
• Burrum Heads: Two ASLAVs and 11 soldiers visited to help clean up after a tornado hit the town. Soldiers’ chain sawed fallen trees to clear roads and property entrances, and rescued a family trapped in their house by fallen trees. People in the town also offered fresh food and accommodation to the soldiers.
• Exclusion zone: Police and soldiers conducted foot patrols on the northern bank of the Burnett River to stop civilians from entering the exclusion zone.
• Senior visit: Prime Minister Julia Gillard was at the Bargara Bowls Club while 12 soldiers were helping clean up one of the most heavily hit areas of Bargara.
• The East State School: Local school received a contingent of soldiers to help the community clean sewage from equipment to reopen the school as soon as possible.
• Mundubbera: Pigs were pulled off roofs and trees removed from river crossings by soldiers sent to the town of Mundubbera to help with the clean-up.
• Water: 11,000L and three pallets of bottled water were delivered to the town of Eidsvold after their water started running low.
• Plumbing: Army plumbers were requested by Bundaberg Council and attached to a plumbing team to work on tasks around the region.
• Electrical: Electricians and a carpenter helped remove electrical fittings and lights, and refurbish a council depot workshop.
• Gayndah: A section of sappers was put to work cleaning up and refurbishing the town of Gayndah.
• Bridge work: 2CER made temporary repairs to the Don Tallon Bridge to open access to some of the worst affected areas of Bundaberg.
• Cricket: Army won the 20-twenty cricket match against the Queensland Fire Service on February 6, with $17,000 raised for the Red Cross flood appeal.