2 January 2024

Locals dig in to get the job done after flooding hits region

| Cape York Weekly
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Jim and Anne Williams from Cooktown Fisherman’s Wharf, along with Cooktown friends and Bloomfield residents race to stock up before a supply run to Bloomfield.

While official bodies begin recovery efforts in flood-ravaged Wujal Wujal, Ayton, Rossville, Helenvale and Mungumby, local heroes have come to the fore as they take matters into their own hands to support their neighbours.

Cooktown’s Jasmine Sieverding and husband Ben Broad were on Wednesday organising their second supply run to Helenvale and Rossville residents cut off by massive landslides on their only access road.

“We knew that the roads were buggered and power was out so we figured people would need help from the Cooktown side to get things in as supplies ran out or perished,” Ms Sieverding said.

“Some supplies are being donated (but we could use plenty more), some are being purchased by Rossville and Helenvale locals for us to deliver and some we are buying ourselves.

“We made two trips yesterday (Tuesday) and two today and plan to keep trekking in as needed until the roads are open.”

Rossville mother of four Belle Newman has set up an unofficial operations centre at her house, which suffered significant flooding and a landslide but still has generator power and communication thanks to Starlink.

“We’re going OK, I’m losing my voice, but we’re trying,” Ms Newman said.

“We’re not waiting for help, we decided we just have to do this ourselves.

“Friends from Cooktown are bringing supplies out to the Lions Den and we’ve cleared enough room for motorbikes to get through and the local boys have been strapping it to their bodies and bringing them through.”

Samala Cronin, Lydia Claxton-Amini and Tanika Parker loading supplies for flood-stricken Far North communities.

Ms Newman is working her way through nearly 200 people in the community, with support from her husband Jaxon, Vasco Timmermans and other locals, confirming people are OK and compiling lists of who needs supplies, medical attention or evacuation and who is missing.

“I flagged down a random chopper this morning to tell them about the very, very sick people out at Home Rule who need evacuation,” she said.

Former Hope Vale woman Tanika Parker has rallied friends, family and businesses and raised thousands to bring essential supplies to Cooktown for displaced families.

“We’ve gathered essentials, mostly baby stuff, items for elders, non-perishable food and that sort of thing,” Ms Parker said.

“I rang my cousin who runs a charity organisation, she sent the word out and I organised the flight.

“We’re so thankful to Daintree Air not only for the last-minute plane but also at very, very low cost – this is what community is all about.”

Bloomfield’s Alec Dunn.

Bloomfield’s Alec Dunn has barely slept, and his family have lost their home on the river’s southside, but between snatching a nap on his soaking wet mattress, he has been tirelessly scouring the floodwaters ferrying people to safety by boat, delivering messages, supplies and goods.

Cape York Weekly caught up with Alec while helping load a fishing boat full of supplies bound for the Bloomfield Valley – Mr Dunn and other Bloomfield locals had boated for two hours to pick up the Product North ship and steam back south.

“I’ve hardly slept, I’m sleeping on a wet mattress,” he said.

Although many have labelled him a hero, Mr Dunn shrugged off the praise, and gave it to others.

“Julie (at the Ayton Store) is pretty much running the recovery show, I’m just doing the runaround, she’s organising, managing and is the base of operations,” he said.

“I’m just doing the rescuing and whatever else I can do.”

The stories of heroism, mateship and community support are numerous, and will continue to grow as the region works to get back on its feet after the flood of a lifetime.

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