THE STATE Emergency Service (SES) has admitted it failed locals in a candid address to flood victims at an emotion- charged community meeting last week.
Representatives from Griffith City Council, SES, Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) and the Insurance Council of Australia fronted a 300-strong crowd on Thursday night to provide answers and reassurance to victims of the March floods.
Yenda residents who were given 20 minutes to evacuate their homes on March 5, more than 24 hours before the water eventually hit the town, were furious at the conduct of the SES.
The SES is the authority responsible for emergency response coordination and, according to Murrumbidgee region controller James McTavish, they were not prepared for the disaster that hit the region.
Mr McTavish explained how never-before-seen flood events across the state and inferior local flood information combined to create a catastrophe that was greater than the SES could handle.
“We made a significant error evacuating Yenda when we did, there should have been more time for people to prepare their properties, absolutely,” Mr McTavish said.
“The next morning, people wanted to go back to their homes.
“If I had my time again, I think it would have been a suitable action to let them.
“Folks should have been allowed to go back to their homes.”
Mr McTavish said the SES evacuation process had been significantly reviewed since March to allow much greater flexibility.
“The information we were provided was that there was a significant amount of water rushing through the system towards Yenda and that was translated through hysteria to people acting in a less than reasonable manner,” he said.
“People were tired and they were listening to the wrong stuff, but if we’re given advice that there is a significant infrastructure failure, we have to act.”
Following a monumental amount of rain early in March, main river flooding combined with atypical overland and creek flooding to simultaneously impact at least 25 towns – including Griffith –within 48 hours and SES volunteers were stretched thin.
“There has never been MIA and main river flooding at the same time – we got caned,” Mr McTavish said.
“We were overcome by the size of the event everywhere. The SES capabilities were too small to cope with an event of this magnitude.”
Mr McTavish said the most important thing was nobody lost their lives.
He urged flood victims to complete the currently circulating SES surveys so the organisation could be better informed in future.
Yenda Progress Association president Kay Pellizzer said while she appreciated Mr McTavish’s honest account, he merely confirmed what Yenda residents already knew.
“It’s so demoralising, the whole lot of it. We already knew we should have been given more time and been allowed to go back when the water wasn’t there,” Mrs Pellizzer said.
“I understand the SES was stretched to the limits but these faults contributed to the hardship we’re all currently going through.”