SES respond to rising anger over floods

The evacuation order for Lismore is given by the SES.
The evacuation order for Lismore is given by the SES. Marc Stapelberg

EMERGENCY services have responded to mounting anger and speculation over the handling of evacuations during the March 31 flood.

Residents said they had limited warning to clear their homes or businesses to prepare for the torrent of water that would destroy millions of dollars in goods.

SES Richmond/Tweed deputy regional controller Wayne Pettit said the situation was a "lose lose” for the service.

"At the moment there is a lot of negative feeling around the timeframes we gave people to evacuate,” Mr Pettit said.

"If we turned that around and the levee didn't overtop, we'd be copping it because we issued an evacuation order and it didn't overtop and people packed up for no reason.”

Piles of ruined goods and rubbish fill back streets of Lismore's CBD.
Piles of ruined goods and rubbish fill back streets of Lismore's CBD. Claudia Jambor

Were Lismore city evacuations called too early?

Discontent about the timing of the evacuations has simmered within the community for nearly two months since the natural disaster devastated the regional city.

For Harris Cycles owner Darryl Pursey, the 30 minutes between the SES major flood warning and evacuation order was called "way too early”.

"They'd only just told us it was going to be a major flood at 4pm then at 4.30pm they'd called a flood evacuation order, which is an absolute joke,” Mr Pursey said.

"We got evacuated at 8.30pm (on Thursday, March 30) but the water didn't come into the shop until midday the next day, that's 18 hours after we got evacuated.”

Lismore Embroidery and Apparel owner Matthew Cutting was one of many retailers who lost stock in the flood.

Mr Cutting said he didn't question the SES order.

"The SES were saying 'You need to evacuate the city, it's going to go over the levee you need to get out', so we obeyed and got out,” Mr Cutting said.

"There was a sense of panic at the time; we didn't know where the levee was, we couldn't see it.”

The recent floods in the Lismore CBD
The recent floods in the Lismore CBD

Why wasn't there more time to prepare?

Long-time resident Alex Coronakes knew the region would be hard hit the moment ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie hit North Queensland.

But Mr Coronakes didn't realise how massive the flood would be until about midday Thursday when he was driving into Lismore from Brisbane.

At the tailend of clearing out his store, Mr Coronakes told the SES to "f... off”.

"There's no urgency, the water didn't come over the levee until 4 o'clock the next morning and here they are between 6-8pm Thursday night telling people we need to get out,” he said.

"With all the technology they've got ... why couldn't they work out, we've got eight hours, start packing?”


WATCH: SES say hundreds of people did not evacuate when advised

LETTER: Flood elephant in the room

Why were people caught out in the floods?

While modern weather predictions have evolved, Mr Pettit cited a series of unknowns particularly around the strength and ability of the levee, which had never been overtopped since it was built in 2005.

He quashed rumours the Richmond/Tweed SES were overruled by out-of-area units and said: "Decisions around Lismore were made locally, they weren't made in Wollongong,”

In hindsight, Mr Pettit said the SES could have issued evacuation warnings along with flood watch announcements on Wednesday, March 29 to speed up flood preparations.

But Mr Pettit saidfew in the community acted on the alert and urged residents to learn "how flooding affects them and their business”.

People could be seen in the Lismore CBD in kyaks.
People could be seen in the Lismore CBD in kyaks. Marc Stapelberg

Local knowledge missing from this flood, business owners say

Community feedback from the SES flood forums highlighted the need for more localised weather monitoring, Mr Pettit said.

Lismore Timezone owner Graeme Hoskins said that decades ago, farmers upstream would report their gauge levels to help inform emergency service decisions during floods.

It's an old tactic Mr Pettit said the service was looking to "blend the technology with some more manual systems where we are gettinglive data about what's happening in the catchment upstream using flood spotters”.

As the SES and other emergency services continue their reviews, Mr Pettit stressed "nothing is off the table”.

The local emergency services operations controller, Commander Superintendant Greg Martin agreed and said a debrief with the heads of emergency services involved occurred on Monday, May 9.

Commander Supt Martin said another debrief with more relevant agencies is planned in the coming weeks.

Topics:  emergency services flood 2017 lismore lismore flood northern rivers emergency northern rivers flood richmond/tweed ses

Sneaky $1 parking hike takes motorists by surprise

The cost to park at the Lismore Rowing Club car park is now $1 more. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw

It now costs $1 more to park at the rowing club.

Flu cases jump by 259% in Northern NSW

Community members are urged to access the 2017 flu vaccine.

Is there a flu crisis on the Northern Rivers?

Ten things to do in Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore this week

The 1975 perform to a huge crowd at Splendour in the Grass 2014. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Spending a week in the Northern Rivers? Check this list out

Local Partners

Channing Tatum’s cheeky $2400 sex toy prank

ALWAYS the prankster, Channing Tatum decided he would go all out after wrapping his latest movie.

Still downloading Game of Thrones? Expect a letter

You mean to tell me HBO want to protect one of the world’s most popular shows?

HBO title holds record as most illegally downloaded show

Sam Newman's Footy Show performance baffles panel

Sam Newman on the Footy Show

“Cat got your tongue tonight has it?”

OJ Simpson loses cool as he begs to go free

Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectables sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier.

Tension at the parole hearing didn't stop OJ going free

Lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, dies age 41

Coroner spokesman Brian Elias says they are investigating Bennington's death as an apparent suicide but no additional details are available.

Chester Bennington's body was found in LA at 9am local time.

Chester Bennington’s tragic Chris Cornell connection

Bennington sings at Chris Cornell’s funeral on May 26 in Los Angeles. Picture: AP

Bennington reportedly godfather of one of Cornell’s three children

Holy schnit: This steak's the size of a small child

WHAT A STEAK: Sarah Atkins was amazed to see the Pinnacle Pub crumbed steak was bigger than one of her four-month-old twin daughters, Jorja.

It's not every day you get served a steak as big as a baby

Island resort living from just $250 a week

Couran Cove on Stradbroke Island is undergoing a makeover. Photo: Steve Holland

Resort offering permanent rentals at almost half normal rental price

New era for stunning historic Rocky venue

St Aubins Village, West Rockhampton.

St Aubins Village reopens to the public after years of closure.

Cashed-up investors driving Ipswich's luxury housing market

SOLD: Elia Youssef bought a home on Hilton Drive Camira for $830,000.

New wave of interstate investors and young super savers in town

Boom or bust? '5.5 million moving into retirement'

National Seniors said that the inequalities with the retirement sector are "a big problem and it's a growing problem".

"It's a big problem and it's a growing problem."