Katherine Times Wed 24 Jan 2018
Katherine Times; NewspaperNT
Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Katherine; Katherine (N.T.) -- Newspapers
North Australian News for Katherine Times
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North Australian News for Katherine Times
'98 FLOOD- 20 YEARS ON Wednesday January 24, 2018 KATHERINETIMES 5katherinetimes.com.au Feels like yesterday THE disastrous floodof 1998 practicallyannihilated thetown of Katherine. Every echelon of the community was affected from the homeless to the towns leaders. Thememories of furious flood water still lingers in the forefront of manyminds. For former Katherine MLAMike Reed Katherines biggest natural disaster feels like yesterday. Mr Reed and his wife had just bought a new home on the north side of town and were planning tomove in the following week. Themove was postponed when both of their homes were trashed by raging flood waters. When you have lived here for a while you get to knowwhat the river is doing. Cyclone Les had dropped a lot of rain in the Katherine catchment area and it became evident that the river was rising fast, Mr Reed said. It was by far themost intense rain I have ever experienced. It beat on the roof for hours on end. When the river broke its banks we knewwe had a major flood on our hands. Mr Reed was in a unique position during the floods. Not only was he a victim of the disaster, but as the local MP, he was responsible for the lives of his constituents. At the time of the 1998 floods he was also the deputy chief minister, police, fire and emergencyminister and treasurer. Obviously my job was to ensure assistance and support was provided to the community. As theminister I also needed to provide support to emergency services to safeguard lives, Mr Reed said. It soon became apparent that the police and emergency services were doing their best but they were getting overwhelmed, that was when a state of emergency was declared. We were very lucky to have help from RAAF Base Tindal, without the air force it would have beenmuch worse.They provided a lot of resources and support and did some incredible work. While fleeing his own home and coordinating an emergency response, Mr Reed found time to help his neighbours escape rising flood waters. It was not a pretty sight. I used a boat I borrowed from my neighbour and spent most of the day helping people leave their homes, Mr Reed said. The human side of the flood is themost difficult to talk about. Picking people up from flooded homes and seeing others on their balco nies and roofs was hard. It was especially hard with all of the children involved and seeing families lose everything, he said. Mr Reed saidmorale was boosted by the visit of then primeminister John Howard on January 30 to announce disaster relief payments. I think people appreciated the fact that the prime minister came and was interested in their problems, he said. His visit had other benefits as well. He gaveme a business card and said if there is anything you need, phone this fella and he will make sure it happens. We used that a number a few times and that was really helpful, it allowed us to access extra resources immediately, Mr Reed said. The real blow came for many residents after the floods when they discovered many insurance companies would not pay up. The trauma people faced of leaving their homes and losing everything was one thing, but then to have to deal with the insurance companies was something else entirely, Mr Reed said. Some of themwere just appalling, the difficulties they put people through caused somuch extra trauma. People were very cross and rightly so, they had to fight with insurance companies about whether the first water to touch their property was flood water or storm water, it was frustrating. Twenty years on from the devastating floods, Katherines hospital remains in the flood zone. Relocating the hospital is something that still needs to be considered. Katherine has grown since the floods and is likely to increase further so hospital services will need to be expanded, Mr Reed said. I think it is reasonable for government to start planning ahead.There should certainly not be any new extensions to the current hospital. Mr Reed said other flood mitigation plans were also explored after the floods. There were calls for things like levee banks, I think there were a few attempts at providing those but none were ever put into place, Mr Reed said. There was a lot of community support for warning sirens as well. Frankly I never supported those because I never saw them playing a significant role. The four town flood warning sirens, installed after 1998 flood,were decommissioned in 2007. Thousands of residents in the communities of Mataranka, Palumpa, Peppimenarti, Daly River and Beswick were also evacuated during the flood. We should not forget that Katherine was not the only place affected, many outlying communities also suffered, Mr Reed said. It was verymuch a regional response. Mr Reed said the devastation had a way of uniting the community. When I visited the evacuation centre and talked with those people, I cannot remember anyone being angry, Mr Reed said. The community handled it very well. Katherine residents can be proud of how they handled themselves and rebuilt their lives, Mr Reed remembered. Within a few weeks a lot of the businesses were trading again. It showed the resilience and strength of the community. - LYDIA LYNCH PUBLIC MEETING: Mike Reed (left), Tim Baldwin and Trevor Ford hold a town meeting from the back of a ute shortly after flood waters receded. Picture: Toni Tapp-Coutts. Not only was he a victim of the disaster, but as the local MP, he was responsible for the lives of his constituents. Morale was boosted by the visit of then prime minister John Howard on January 30 to announce disaster relief payments. The real blow came for many residents after the floods when they discovered many insurance companies would not pay up. 'Some of them were just appalling, the difficulties they put people through caused so much extra trauma.' TOWN LEADER 1129 Victoria Highway, Katherine (08) 8972 3929 So come in and catch up with China and the team for all your tyre needs. As part of the 20 year Katherine Flood Commemoration, Bridgestone Katherine will take 5% off the price of all Bridgestone and Supercat passenger and 4x4 tyres, and 10% off the price of all wheel alignments, until the end of February 2018. (conditions apply; cash sale customers only) BRIDGESTONE SERVICE CENTRE KATHERINEWOULD LIKE TO FORMALLY WELCOME LOCAL RESIDENT RUSSELL AH CHIN, MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS CHINA, TO THE TEAM. China is a long-term resident, having lived and worked in Katherine for 38 years, and comes to us with extensive experience and knowledge of the tyre industry. AW3442115