A RUGBY woman who moved to Australia seven years ago said she feared for her life when the devastating floods hit her home town.
Debbie Jarold, 37, fled with her two young children in search of higher ground as rising waters hit Bundaberg in Queensland.
Three people died after being swept away in strong currents.
But the latest threat is snakes and crocodiles roaming the worst-hit areas after escaping from burst banks.
Debbie, who used to work at the Rugby Advertiser, said: “Thank God we are OK but unfortunately many others have lost everything. It’s just so sad.
“People were ordered by police to leave their homes. At its worst we saw people wading through suburbs, chest-deep at times. Many were reluctant to leave but we realised it could be a cause of life and death.”
She said a big clean up operation is now in place.
“Some of the scenes have been amazing and heartbreaking,” added Debbie.
“The floods were not due to rainfall, but surging on the Burnett River. We were so lucky our home stayed dry. The peak of the flood saw water rise to 7.9m. There had been a lot of rain in Queensland West which all fell in the catchment, and hence the river went crazy.”
Debbie, who used to live in Chester Street, Rugby, and is married to Richard, joined a volunteer clean up day for someone who had lost most of their belongings.
She said: “Last Monday I made morning tea with the kids and took them with me to deliver it to people who were cleaning up in the worst hit areas, to help them in a small way. I also wanted to show the kids how much some people had lost.”
The former Rugby Advertiser promotions manager said recalled emotional scenes of people carrying their most-treasured personal possessions, only to be forced to dump them at the roadside.
“I then saw council workers scooping them up and emptying them in the back of a dump truck,” she said.
“That will always stay with me, so heartbreaking.”
But she said the situation has taken a turn for the better this week.
“At least the waters are drying. All we can really do now is sit and wait,” she said.
Debbie, who has a son, Harper, five, and daughter, Macy, two, said her children coped well with the situation.
“My family have been amazing and everyone has really pulled together in the community,” she said.
“We tried not to let it spoil Christmas, but it’s been hard thinking about the people who have been hit so badly by this.”
She said the smell from stagnant flood water has been atrocious but it’s improving each day.
Around 850,000 sq km have been affected, an area equivalent in size to France and Germany.
Debbie said: “There have been reports of small-scale looting and many people are worried not just by the floodwaters but by the possibility their homes might be robbed by looters.
“That is why an evacuation centre which had room for 1,500 people had only 50 overnight.”
She told the Advertiser this week: “Things are getting worse now, not where I am, but our waters are set to rise again over the next few days.”