Kembla St flooding victims need help

Residents of Wollongong’s Kembla St made a desperate plea for help yesterday after last week’s devastating floods forced them to abandon their homes and leave their wet and bedraggled belongings out on the footpath to rot.It has now been eight days since the residents woke to find water pouring through doors and windows, forcing them to flee for their lives. The flooding has subsided, but the impact of that night lives on.By any measure, the southern end of Kembla St is still a disaster zone.Families have been forced to bunk with neighbours or leave their children with friends.Twelve cars are useless after the engines were inundated. Swollen doors make it all but impossible for some residents to enter their own homes.Others are forced to live with the stench of raw sewage flushed out by the floods.Farah Baydoun and her two-year-old daughter Lamar Jaasar were given emergency accommodation in a nearby motel, but that runs out tonight. ‘‘I don’t know where to go, I’m going to be homeless,’’ she said. Driving instructor Delma Johnstan has had to stop work because her car was damaged. She and husband Scott now have to live with a neighbour because their house has become a health hazard.‘‘The only support any of us have got has been from friends and family,’’ Ms Johnstan said.The residents say they’ve been abandoned by a number of government agencies, but yesterday directed their ire at the State Emergency Service (SES), which they claim failed to do any follow-up checks or help them during the floods.Resident Tony Virtu had to help his neighbours that night, wading in chest-deep water.‘‘I’ve lived here for 30 years and never seen anything like it,’’ he said.Yesterday SES region controller Illawarra South Coast Greg Murphy paid an impromptu visit to residents to offer his help. But he received a hostile reception, with complaints about the service’s actions during the actual flooding.Mr Murphy said the SES priority that night was rescues, but now that he was aware of the situation he would do his best to help those affected.‘‘The SES do everything to make sure a person receives help, but after the event has finished it is not normally part of our role to clean up,’’ he said.‘‘We have an emergency phase and a recovery phase, and in that recovery phase there is an expectation that the welfare agencies and the insurance industry will take over.’’Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he was attempting to co-ordinate special rubbish collections to get rid of the waste. He said the SES should have checked up on the residents on the night of the floods.

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