25 years on since floods

Alpine Observer - - Front Page -

By STRUAN JONES

THE rain started on the Satur­day and didn’t stop for two days.

On the Tues­day morn­ing the pa­per de­clared the events the “worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ter in liv­ing mem­ory” and the ar­ti­cle be­gan:

“SES work­ers, vol­un­teers, mem­bers of the Red Cross and po­lice were work­ing round the clock on Sun­day and Mon­day as Bright and its sur­round­ing dis­tricts ex­pe­ri­enced the worst floods in liv­ing history.

“From 9am on Sun­day to 9am on Mon­day, the rain gauge at the shire of­fices reg­is­tered 142mm, while a gauge in Wandiligong reg­is­tered 149mm.

“SES work­ers and vol­un­teers were kept busy from 4pm on Sun­day af­ter­noon sand­bag­ging prop­er­ties, mov­ing fur­ni­ture and help­ing to evac­u­ate peo­ple from prop­er­ties in dan­ger of be­ing flooded.”

Th­ese were the open­ing para­graphs on the front page of The Alpine Ob­server, pub­lished on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 5 1993 un­der a pic­ture of Cen­te­nary Park un­der­wa­ter.

This year marks 25 years since the record-break­ing floods which in­un­dated Bright and Myrtle­ford as the Ovens River and its trib­u­taries burst their banks.

Many lo­cals can still re­call the events, and The Alpine Ob­server re­cently caught up with Henry Martin, the man in charge of the Bright SES at the time.

“When the flood started I was work­ing in Rose­white, and I was about the last per­son to get back through to Bright on the Sun­day night be­fore the road got flooded,” Mr Martin re­called.

“Every­thing re­ally hap­pened af­ter dark.”

The town had re­ceived no warn­ing, and the wa­ter rose so quickly most peo­ple did not have time to move fur­ni­ture or take up car­pets.

Flash flood­ing en­gulfed the town and the sur­round­ing ar­eas through the night, and vol­un­teers scram­bled to sand­bag prop­erty and en­sure the safety of their neigh­bours.

Mr Martin doesn’t re­mem­ber much of that night, say­ing “it was all a blur, you didn’t re­ally take breath un­til day­light, it was full on.”

One of the sto­ries Mr Martin re­mem­bers is of a Wandiligong res­i­dent who lived in a car­a­van by the creek, who woke in the mid­dle of the night to find his dog, Sprocket, on the din­ing ta­ble.

Yelling at his dog to get off the ta­ble, the dog took no no­tice, so the res­i­dent jumped out of bed and into a foot of wa­ter, and no­ticed the car­a­van was rock­ing.

He grabbed his dog and climbed onto the roof of the car­a­van, and waited up there in the dark for about eight hours be­fore an SES res­cue crew reached him.

“That was a real act of brav­ery, be­cause the creek was still run­ning like a rag­ing river,” Mr Martin said.

“You did it be­cause there was a need and you re­act in a way to help peo­ple. I was very proud of what we did and what we achieved.”

By Mon­day af­ter­noon the waters had started to re­cede, and the mon­u­men­tal clean up got un­der­way, an ef­fort that would ul­ti­mately take weeks to com­plete.

“Peo­ple did amaz­ing things, it was a town of car­ing peo­ple who looked af­ter one an­other and their neigh­bours,” Mr Martin said.

PROUD TO HELP: Henry Martin re­mem­bers the 1993 flood and the brav­ery of vol­un­teers

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