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Evacuations continue from the flooded Hunter -

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Evacuations continue from the flooded Hunter

AM - Monday, 11 June , 2007 08:00:00

Reporter: Timothy McDonald

TONY EASTLEY: It was a long, tense night for many people in the New South Wales town of Maitland as
they waited to see if their homes would be inundated with floodwaters from the Hunter River. After
storms lashed the Hunter region on Friday and then again on Saturday, emergency service crews
weren't taking any chances.

More than 4,000 residents were evacuated from the area thought to be facing the greatest
danger. From there Timothy McDonald reports.

(Sound of water flowing rapidly)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Even before the river began to rise, some low lying paddocks were so inundated
with water that entire sheds disappeared beneath the surface of lakes that weren't there two days

Although he was taking a boat to get feed for his horses, and water was lapping at his front steps,
local farmer Darren Elder wasn't dwelling on what could happen to his house.

DARREN ELDER: Yeah, I'm only one of those single-storeys there, and it's about two foot from the
house, so yeah, it's too close for comfort. I've been concerned now for two days, but no, I'm past
it now. What happens, happens.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Others were equally resigned to a fate they couldn't control.

RESIDENT: Well, I've ... actually I've stopped worrying about it. It's got to the point where you
just go, "Oh well". No ... nothing you can do. It's only stuff.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Maitland has an extensive flood mitigation system, which was put in place after
11 lives were lost in floods in 1955. Many people like Marie Doherty remember those floods. She
says she was rescued from her second-storey home by boat.

MARIE DOHERTY: I've got a two-storey home, as you can see, and we had to ... all the ladders had to
be kicked out and the big ducks come up from Newcastle with the lifesavers on, and they got us out
at two o'clock in the morning, and took us up to West Maitland station.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: It's an event the town doesn't want to repeat. SES units were in place in the
early afternoon, sandbagging a railway station. Volunteer, John Hedges, says it's an important step
to help protect the town.

JOHN HEDGES: It completes the levee bank around Maitland. With the gates open, this is a break in
the levee bank. It's been designed now that we close the gates, which we have. We seal the face of
the gates with plastic, build up a sandbag wall against the plastic to hold it all in place, and it
will now, has formed part of the retainer wall around Maitland.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Water levels were expected to top 11.4 meters at the Belmore Bridge, which was
slightly above the level needed to spill over into the town's streets. The authorities weren't
taking any chances, and evacuated around 4,000 people.

Many went to stay with relatives, while others went to emergency evacuation centres like Maitland
High School, where they waited patiently and even listened to a band.

(Sound of a guitar playing)

However, there was a man out the back named Les Green who preferred to camp outside with his
fiancée and his dogs.

LES GREEN: I'd rather stay out here, my animals are here, I love the animals. Like, I couldn't
bring them first up yesterday, they wouldn't let me bring them because they said that they ... you
had to evacuate and you couldn't bring your animals, like you had to leave your animals at home.
So, I said no, I'll stay until I have two come.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Although there were some who tried to get back into the town centre, after police
had locked it down, most were moved on without incident.

TONY EASTLEY: Timothy McDonald reporting.