16 January 2024

When I got there it was total destruction: Family loses house and business in floods

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Bus flipped on its side from flood damage

Flood damage devastation left this Cape York family homeless. Photo: supplied.

A father is still reeling after his house was torn to pieces in the December floods.

Ziggi Krysztofiak lives along Trevethan Creek, 20km south of Cooktown and said he was lucky to get an early warning when the banks of the creek broke.

He drove his tractor into the house to save the most important things, but water was flowing in too fast.

“I saved our generator and grabbed the documents briefcase and took the kids in the car to higher ground,” he said.

“We couldn’t get to our goats as there was too much water and it was too fast flowing between us and them.

“We were in disbelief to everything and were more than knee deep in water.”

The water receded for a short while, giving Mr Krysztofiak and his kids a chance to save their goats as well as more belongings.

Then, the second wave of flooding came, and water levels rose much faster than the first time.

“We got the kids to higher ground again and I went back to pack a suitcase,” he said.

“By this time, the water was raging through the house and everything was crashing around me, not only things from the house but also from the shed 100m away.”

The family managed to get to a friend’s house 2.5 kilometres away, but Mr Krysztofiak decided to go back for some supplies, leaving his kids safe at higher ground.

Shortly after beginning the trip back, his car got bogged and he was stuck outside in the weather.

“By this time it was raining very heavily and all the creeks and rivers between me and my kids were rising,” he said.

“Luckily, my neighbours got word of what was happening and came before the floodwater got too deep to help get my car out.

“They urged me to stay with them as the water was rising rapidly, but I had to be with my kids and get the supplies to them.”

House before flood and cyclone destruction

Father devasted to see family home of three years in ruins. Photo: supplied.

When Mr Krysztofiak returned home a few days later, the damage was worse than he had imagined.

“When I got there it was total destruction. I was thinking that there would just be water damage cleaning to do in the house,” he said.

“Everything I own was scattered and smashed around my whole block and my neighbour’s block.

“The house and shed were literally ripped out of the ground.”

Not only did the house go, but Mr Krysztofiak’s mobile mechanic and towing business washed away along with the machinery, equipment and tools that he used.

“A 38-foot bus flipped and smashed, my cars and machinery were full of mud and smashed up against trees,” he said.

“A 30-foot boat was upside down, cracked in half and wedged against a tree.

“Everything was gone. My insurance doesn’t cover this.”

Mr Krysztofiak said he was “absolutely devasted” to see his home of three years destroyed in a matter of hours, but that they were one of the lucky ones as the kids were safe.

“The main thing was to keep the kids safe and happy and we did that,” he said.

“Luckily we got that early warning, unlike many others and we didn’t have to spend time on roofs with water raging around us, so my kids aren’t traumatised.

“It’s only material stuff we lost.”

He said the community had also rallied around them to help with places to stay, cleaning up, donations and delivery of vital goods.

“Our neighbour Barb, her two boys and her grandma took us in, gave us shelter, clothes, food and a warm and dry bed to sleep in,” he said.

“We’ve been able to caretake a neighbouring property for a few weeks after the floods, which has been ideal as it’s not too far to go clean every day. We’ve been offered other places to stay by many other locals too.”

“Cooktown has a wonderful community of people.”

House ruins after flood and cyclone

Mr Krysztofiak says although there was loss, he is one of the lucky ones. Photo: supplied.

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