The New South Wales State Emergency Service has defended decisions to twice reject offers of help from the army in the lead-up to the state’s flooding crisis.
While the heroics on the ground were unquestionable, why an early Defence Force offer of a full scale surge wasn’t accepted is now under the microscope.
On the afternoon of Friday, February 25, the first defence offer was made, and rejected by the SES.
That night, the Commonwealth activated its disaster response plan for the east coast.
A second call was put into the SES, and help was again rejected.
Over the weekend, troops surged in South East Queensland, as Brisbane was inundated by floods.
But it wasn’t until mid-afternoon on the Monday that NSW called for ADF aerial support, and the Army flew in.
By then residents had already spent hours stranded on rooftops in the rain, as waters rose.
The SES was inundated, and it was a civilian armada who sprung into action, performing 4,000 rescues.
Five people died in the floods.
When asked about the delay, NSW officials defended the actions..
SES Commissioner Charlene York, said today: “At that stage, the forecast that we were relying on was that we were expecting Northern Rivers to be in minor to moderate flood levels.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet, added: “We get all the information and make an assessment on what went well and what can be done better.”
Lismore mayor Steve Kreig said local knowledge on the ground needs to be used.
Meanwhile the town’s sewage treatment plant has been decimated.
When an army Chinook flew into Lismore on Monday, February 28, the crew found a city already under water.
On the ground, local reservists, like Lieutenant Ben Fischer had already been tasked to help.
Backup finally arrived by Tuesday, and a Taipan helicopter collected Lieutenant Fischer’s team for a delicate operation at Upper Main Arm near Mullumbimby, which was cut off.
They found two people who had been buried by a landslide in their house “for a long time,” he said.
“(We) got rid of the trees and debris and looked to leverage some of the house that was on the victim,” he said.