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Sunday 17 February 2019

'It's like something from your worst nightmare' - Irish mum housebound with two kids as 'once-in-a-century' floods hit Queensland

Flood damage in the Townsville area and inset, Catherine Simpson with her two daughters
Flood damage in the Townsville area and inset, Catherine Simpson with her two daughters
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

An Irish woman living in Queensland has told how her family has been housebound for nearly a week as unprecedented levels of rain continue to cause chaos.

Catherine Simpson, originally from Co Limerick, owns a gym and beauty salon in the Townsville area which have been forced to close due to flooding.

An aerial view shows flood waters in the suburb of Hyde Park, Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, February 4, 2019. AAP Image/Dave Acree/via REUTERS
An aerial view shows flood waters in the suburb of Hyde Park, Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, February 4, 2019. AAP Image/Dave Acree/via REUTERS
An aerial view shows the flood-affected area in Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Queensland Government Air/via REUTERS
A man reclines on a unicorn float in floodwater on Bowen Road in Rosslea district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Nathan Hughes via REUTERS
Floodwater flows over the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Nathan Hughes via REUTERS
Ross River Dam releases water in Queensland, Australia, in this still photo from a February 3, 2019 video by Julia Hunt. Julia Hunt/Social Media/via REUTERS
Flooding is seen in Bicentennial Park in Queensland, Australia, in this still photo from a February 3, 2019 drone video footage by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services/Social Media/via REUTERS
Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS
Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS
SES volunteers are seen rescuing residents in Rosslea, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 2, 2019. Picture taken February 2, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Amelia Rankin stands in flooded waters in Hermit Park, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Residents evacuating to higher ground in Hermit Park, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Flooding is seen in Rosslea, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 2, 2019. Picture taken February 2, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Rocks are seen blocking Muller Street in Wulguru, Townsville, as flooding continues in northern Queensland, Australia February 1, 2019
Local resident Paul Shafer and his daughter Lily stand in floodwaters near star pickets that show where the storm water cover has been removed in Hermit Park, Townsville, northern Queensland, Australia
This handout from the Australia Department of Defence taken on February 2, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019
This handout from the Australia Department of Defence taken on February 2, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville.
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville.Photo by Handout / QUEENSLAND FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES / AFP
A handout picture provided by Queensland Police Service, taken on February 2, 2019 and release on February 3 shows two police officers wading in flood waters in Townsville.Photo by Queensland Police Service
A handout photo taken by Erin Hahn on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, shows a crocodile during the floods in Townsville.
A handout photo taken and recieved February 4, 2019, from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) shows the flooding in Townsville. Photo by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
A handout photo taken and recieved February 4, 2019, from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) shows the flooding in Townsville. Photo by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

Mrs Simpson said all the schools in the area are remaining closed and hospitals are advising people to stay home unless it's an emergency.

She moved to Queensland six years ago and said "I have never witnessed anything like this in my life".

The Limerick woman has two children - a four-year-old girl and a seven-month old girl - and says locals are fearful as the rain isn't expected to stop for at least another 10 days.

"Growing up in Ireland I was used to the rain but nothing on this scale. It's like your worst nightmare, or something out of a movie... there's snakes coming out of the drains and even the idea of going into the flood waters is frightening as there's plenty of snakes, crocodiles and spiders around," she told Independent.ie.

A crocodile climbing a tree in Queensland Photo: Mick Doyle
A crocodile climbing a tree in Queensland Photo: Mick Doyle

"We've a trainer from our gym who has been trapped in her car because the road got flooded and about 20 members of our gym have had their homes destroyed.

"Luckily our house is okay as it's up on a hill. We're a bit like Noah's Ark but the roof in the gym has about 15 holes in it and there is a lot of water damage".

Mrs Simpson said a lot of the schools have been "completely destroyed", adding "I don't know how we'll overcome it".

"Our clothes are starting to rot and there's mould and dampness all over the place. It's crazy to think that a river can literally overcome your whole neighbourhood. I'm guessing there's thousands without homes. The shelters are all full too. We're just all thinking when is this rain going to stop".

Two men aged in their 20s died in the catastrophic floods.

Australian authorities pulled the bodies of the two men from a storm water drain during cleanup efforts yesterday.

Days of severe rainfall caused insurance losses estimated at more than €40 million, while weather officials have warned that heavy showers could continue in some areas.

A number of Irish families live in the Townsville area, with some having their homes completely destroyed.

Father-of-three Mick Doyle, originally from Saggart, Dublin described how crocodiles are climbing trees to escape the gushing waters.

He and his wife Rachel have been living in Australia for over seven years and bought their first family home two years ago.

Now the Dubliner fears their house will be completely destroyed after they had to evacuate on Sunday.

His eldest child suffers from epilepsy and autism and they are worried about getting access to medication.

"We got no warning at all to leave... everything happened so quickly," Mr Doyle told Independent.ie.

"If we had left it another 20 minutes yesterday we wouldn't have made it out of our house.

"It's been really stressful. We fear everything will be destroyed when we go back. We brought the things that mean most to us but had to leave so much of our belongings behind.

"We've got three small kids, aged nine, four and two. Our eldest has epilepsy and it has been a massive upheaval for him. The other two kids think we're on holidays as we're staying with friends.

Vincent Meehan, from Co Leitrim, owns a Specsavers branch in the local Townsville shopping centre.

He had to send staff home after the centre was evacuated over the weekend.

Mr Meehan, who moved to Queensland in 2015 with his wife, described the chaos as he tried to stock up on food.

"We knew things were starting to get serious because the floods weren't going away," he said.

"We started to go down to the shops to try and get some food. There was barely anything left on the shelves. No meat, no bread, no bottled water. I was in the st ore for ten minutes and next minute there was an announcement asking all shoppers to leave. I couldn't even pay for the groceries... I went to another shop and the only meat left was dog meat."

Mr Meehan's house has luckily been unaffected but some of his friends haven't been so lucky.

"At least two of my friends had 20cm of water in their house. People might find it hard to believe that it comes on quickly but it does. It was raining the same level all week and there was nothing different and then all of a sudden it started to overspill.

"We're suffering a big loss of earnings now as we haven't been able to open Specsavers since Saturday morning. We have insurance but these things take a long time to pan out. We closed early on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and now we can't open as there's no power and we can't get an electrician to fix it".

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