IFRC

Charting the path from evacuation to recovery

Published: 28 June 2013 12:06 CET

By Benoit Carpentier

Shirley and Raymond thought they had seen everything when it came to floods in their hometown of Bundaberg on the east coast of Australia. But on 27 January 2013, the water was higher than they’d ever seen, destroying houses, bridges and schools.

The level of the water exceeded two meters in some places and most of the town was submerged.

“We saw the water rising in the afternoon, but we thought that it will be like in 2011,” says Shirley in reference to previous floods. “Raymond told me that we should stay here, that there was no problem. Then we started to see debris passing in the street and through our yard. Then suddenly the level went up, the water was carrying cars and parts of houses. We were so fortunate to be rescued by a swift rescue boat,” she adds.

Shirley and Raymond were evacuated to the nearest school on a higher ground. But after a few hours the water reached the school and they had to be evacuated again to a nearby school.

“It was chaos, there were so many people, it was really incredible,” says Raymond. “But despite the chaos, the crowd and the stress, we still received help and support. The Australian Red Cross volunteers were everywhere; distributing food and water, talking and supporting people.”

Shirley and Raymond were then evacuated to another site by helicopter, where they joined hundreds of people already displaced.

“We couldn’t believe how many people were there – thousands maybe – but again the volunteers were amazing. The population was also incredible, bringing food, blankets or anything they could think of that could help,” says Shirley.

During an emergency, Australian Red Cross volunteers provide emotional and practical assistance to people during emergencies to enable people and communities to recover quicker.

After two days in the large evacuation centre, Shirley and Raymond moved once more to the YMCA evacuation center where they will stay for three more weeks.

That’s where she met Jan, a volunteer from Australian Red Cross who was helping in the centre.

“I have been working in more than 16 operations with Red Cross,” says Jan. “But I always have tears coming when I see these people so affected. Some of them have lost everything, some of them not for the first time.”

Shirley and her husband are now back in their house, trying to move on with their lives.The work of Red Cross goes beyond immediate relief. After an emergency, Red Cross staff and volunteers like Jan work with communities in emergency affected areas during the long and often emotional journey to recovery, visiting homes, attending events and supporting community activities to provide emotional support, information and referrals to recovery services.

“We can prepare ourselves the best we can, and keep on moving.” Australian Red Cross provides training to be better prepared for an emergency. Being prepared – having a plan, knowing who lives nearby, and keeping insurance up-to-date – helps people recover faster following an emergency.

 




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