3 April 2024

100 days on: Bloomfield resident reflects on 12-hour boat experience

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Flood water level not far from reaching roof

Bloomfield resident Filippo ‘Cavo’ Cavallaro tied himself to a solar panel on the roof as he waited for help. Photo: Supplied.

With blood gushing from his foot, Filippo ‘Cavo’ Cavallaro spent 12 hours in his boat with his three dogs and did what he could to survive the night.

Now, 100 days after the mass flooding event that followed Tropical Cyclone Jasper in December 2023, Mr Cavallaro reflected on the night Bloomfield residents were left praying for their lives on whatever high ground they could find.

“I did the last phone call to my partner, and I told her ‘this is gonna be the last time I talk to you’,” he said.

When water started to rise rapidly, Mr Cavallaro dragged his boat onto the veranda, sat his three dogs in it and started to gather up some belongings.

“I took one step in the house and, by that time, the house was already full of water about knee deep, and I sliced my foot on something,” he said.

“I dropped everything, looked at my foot and I saw the gash.

“I took my shirt off and wrapped my foot up, but by the time I walked through the house the shirt was washed off my foot, because the current was pretty bad.”

With help nowhere in sight, he tied the flat-bottom boat to higher ground and bailed out the rainwater.

“I clanged a steel bucket against the boat,” Mr Cavallaro said.

The sudden noised scared his Great Dane, which jumped out of the boat “into the darkness”.

“All I could see was two green eyes swimming while getting washed down the river,” he said.

With two dogs left in the boat, the water continued to rise.

“I tied up to different points as the tide was going up eight times before I reached the last mounting point on the roof, where my solar panel was near the apex of the roof,” he said.

“I thought, ‘I’ve run out of points and the water is coming up higher’.

“It was pitch black and I had a torch, but it was fading.”

At around 3am, with nowhere higher left to go, the rain began to let up and the water started to go down.

He made his way back down, and luckily, found his Great Dane.

“[The dog] found a clump of bamboo and he climbed into that,” he said.

“I’m not happy that no one came to rescue us.

“The police actually rang me and said don’t go anywhere, we’re going to come in and rescue you by chopper, and I laughed at that because there’s no way in the world they could have landed a chopper anywhere.”

He spent one night in Ayton before being airlifted to Cooktown and then Cairns, undergoing two operations on his foot.

It was only three weeks ago that Mr Cavallaro was set up in a caravan after living in his silt-filled house after returning from Cairns just before Christmas.

“Two-and-a-half months I lived like a dog in my house, with stuff raining down on me while I slept,” he said.

“I just frequent the house to work now and I’m quite happy to live in my house again, but I’ve still got a long way to go before I can actually make it liveable again.”

Filippo 'Cavo' Cavallaro

Mr Cavallaro believed he had called his partner for the last time as he tied his boat to the highest point available. Photo: Supplied.

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