FILM of a house being lifted off its foundations and propelled away by floodwaters in Dungog in April, 2015 still has the power to shock.
Floods are not an uncommon event in this land that is regularly belted by powerful natural events. But to see a whole house being propelled away and out of sight simply by the power of water shows how and why people die when floods occur.
Three elderly people died in the Dungog superstorm that hit on April 21, 2015. Brian Wilson, 72, Robin Reid Macdonald, 68, and Colin Webb, 79, died in their homes. It is almost too painful to imagine the final hours of their lives, trapped in homes and probably hoping, at first, that the floodwater would remain at a nuisance level, rather than life-threatening.
We know too much about their final minutes, for the detail is distressing. Elderly andvulnerable,Mr Webb was found with his head just about the water on the patio of his unit. Neighbour Allan Cherry tried to save him. He heroically dived into the floodwater to save his friend, but it was too late.
Brian Wilson and Robin Reid Macdonald’s bodies were later found. It is all too easy to understand how Mrs Macdonald refused to leave without her companion pets.
Flood events go down in history according to where they occurred, and sometimes the year. When they’re referred to in articles years later, they are sometimes written up as the flood where three people died, or five or seven.
The Dungog flood of 2015, that an inquest has already heard was a one in 1000 year event, will one day be referred to as the 2015 flood where three died.
This week, in Newcastle Court, the community is showing that what happened to the town of Dungog in April, 2015 was tragic, and that the deaths of Brian Wilson, Robin Reid Macdonald and Colin Webb need to be investigated, openly.
Inquests are often painful explorations of where things have gone wrong. But they are necessary.
We already know that the State Emergency Service’s response on the morning of April 21, 2015 “could have been improved”.
An inquest after a natural disaster is not about finding people to blame. The superstorm that hit the Hunter atthat time was experienced by hundreds of thousands of people. We all know how powerful it was. But we need to learn how to be better prepared in future.