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Lismore floods: help Annie and Shubham get back on their feet

The young couple is running on fumes as they try to rebuild their lives after the devastating floods.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the nation from flood-hit Lismore last week, declaring a national emergency in Australia’s east coast, Annie Walker and Shubham Mapara were among thousands of locals incensed by his remarks.

The young couple from Lismore is running on fumes as they try to rebuild their lives.

The northeast NSW town has faced its most deadly flooding in the modern record.

“The PM had a lot of gall to come (to Lismore) with his track record,” Annie told Indian Link.  “We were all left to fend for ourselves and clean up alone. People took out their tinnies, boats, and kayaks to help anyone in distress. One parent drove over 10 hours to reach us with diesel and cleaning supplies. People from in and around the affected communities responded way before the authorities and emergency services started working on it.”

AT A GLANCE

  • Young couple Annie Walker and Shubham Mapara are facing substantial distress after their Lismore home was completely flooded
  • As an international student, Shubham is not eligible for the government’s disaster payments
  • They are now reaching out for help via a GoFundMe page

They recall wading through waist-deep waters to hurriedly evacuate their home on 28 February, no emergency services in sight to help.

“When I reached home at 3 AM from work in Byron Bay, the roads and entire area looked pretty normal with no waterlogging whatsoever,” Shubham recounted.  “We were awake till late to keep an eye out on rising water levels, but we saw no change when we went to bed.”

But everything changed between 5 AM and 7 AM.

“Annie woke at 8 AM to check, and realized we were inundated with water. The Residential Manager came down with others from the Southern Cross University Village and waded through floodwaters to help us evacuate. We had no help from emergency services.”

Annie added, “When I first saw all the water, my first thought was: ‘where’s our cat?’ I waded through the flooded living room to its far corner where we saw him sitting on a table, scared for his life.”

READ ALSO: NSW Floods 2021: Bags packed under evacuation warnings

This came after she’d spent the previous evening preparing for the worst, constantly checking social media for updates.

“Being in East Lismore, we didn’t have a flood plan as such because this area was not affected by floods. The evening was stressful. I brought some things upstairs on the advice of the village’s manager thinking the waters may reach inside, but we never thought it would reach the levels it did. I thought maybe a foot or two, but it ended up being over five feet,” she elaborated.

The lower level of the house completely flooded, taking with it educational reference books, art supplies, electronics, and even more devastatingly, family heirlooms and their car, their primary mode of transport.

Across NSW and Queensland, current insurance estimates stand at over $2.1 billion in damages.

“The response from the government was abysmal and there is a lot of anger. For comparison, you only need to see the response to Cyclone Tracy in 1974,” Annie explained. “They evacuated the entire city, fumigated, and cleaned it up. One Boeing 747 carried over 600 people to safety while the city was rebuilt.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that residents in north NSW were forced to wait on their roofs to be rescued last week, even as the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) rejected flood assistance from the Australian Defence Force.

Twenty-two people have died directly from the flooding as of 12 March.

“The community has done far more than enough in disaster relief effort and clean-up; they need to be able to rest and recuperate. They did the jobs of professionals that were not sent, and when they were, it was too little, too late,” Annie vehemently stated.

“This community has suffered losses greater than most can imagine. Most business owners and many houses were not insured, either because insurance isn’t available for floods, or their place was taken out in the 2017 floods.”

READ ALSO: The world sees the climate crisis in Australia’s floods. Do we?

The couple, who have been together for almost two years, also face an uphill battle ahead. Shubham is an international student at SAE Institute in Byron Bay, and as per his student visa, he’s not eligible for disaster payments from the government.

“I checked with the representatives of Services Australia, and they advised me to get to the nearest working Services Australia office to fill out a Special Consideration form for people who are ‘not residentially eligible but are affected similarly’. As of now, I have to rely on savings that have run dry,” he lamented.

Shubham has reached out to loved ones back in Mumbai for help, but it’s likely to take another week to be processed and will not be enough to meet all the expenses. Meanwhile, as an Australian citizen, Annie has been able to apply for a $1,000 disaster payment with two more coming in the next few weeks – money that will have to keep both of them going.

annie walker and shubham mapara
Source: supplied

To ease their financial burdens, a GoFundMe page has been set up by Annie’s sister Bella. The funds will go towards purchasing a vehicle, affording rent, replacing their belongings, and importantly, helping cover Shubham’s university fees to finish off his last year of study. Without a car to get to work, he’s been unable to continue funding his studies here in Australia.

In the last week, their fundraiser has raised a little over $2,000.

Shubham also had an important message for the Indian community here in Australia:

“Floods are dangerous. People born in India have seen how monsoon creates massive havoc in the southern and western coast of the country, we’ve seen flash floodings submerge entire towns and cities with no warning. I have grown up in Mumbai and saw the 2005 floods firsthand.

“It is a terrible natural disaster and people need massive mental, physical, and financial support. Do your best to give essential items. Help by donating monetarily to people who have lost absolutely everything. Please go to community pages and websites to find out how to help.”

READ ALSO: Sydney-based Ben Chapple is fundraising for Adivasi COVID-relief

Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer and editor based in Sydney. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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