Flood-ravaged Australians feel forgotten as election looms

LISMORE, Australia: For Karey Patterson, the lingering memory of the February floods that devastated Australia’s east coast was wondering how long he could hold his daughter’s head above water as the torrent consumed their home.

“It was like a disaster movie, but I was in it,” he told AFP, standing in the still-gutted shell of his house in the town of Lismore.

In the aftermath of the floods, the worst the city had ever seen, there was a flurry of news coverage, visits from the prime minister and opposition leader, and promises of help.

Three months on, the floodwater has mostly receded and with it public attention.

On the eve of Saturday’s (May 21) election, the fact that more than 1,500 citizens in one of the world’s richest nations are still in emergency accommodation barely gets a mention in the campaign.

Many others have slipped through the statistics, sleeping on friends’ couches, staying in caravans, or camping in their flood-wrecked homes.

“I think we have been forgotten,” said Bec Barker, who has been living with her husband in a small caravan in the backyard of the home they spent more than a decade renovating.

“I don’t think people realise that we don’t have houses to come back to, we don’t have furniture, we don’t have anything.”

Battling her insurer and ineligible for grants, Barker cannot picture herself living again in the home she thought she would grow old in.

While many flood victims feel forgotten, some also worry climate change’s low billing on the campaign trail will guarantee more Australians are hit by increasingly extreme droughts, fires and floods.

Barker wants to see better government preparedness before new disasters strike – so neighbours are not left to rescue one another in the dead of night.

“This can happen to anyone, really. I don’t live in a high flood zone area,” she said.

“It happened to us.”


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