NSW town watches as CBD, hundreds of homes flood for the first time

NSW town watches as CBD, hundreds of homes flood for the first time

The Casino CBD is cleaning up after it flooded in what many locals say is the first time ever, with 330 homes also inundated in the “entirely unprecedented” event.

NSW’s entire Northern Rivers region was put on high alert earlier this week and parts of Casino were among dozens of areas ordered to evacuate.

Local real estate agent Mark Formaggin said the town has endured isolated storm-related flooding in the past, but never anything like this from the Richmond River.

“Nobody saw it coming; it was entirely unprecedented,” he said.

Mayor Robert Mustow said some homes and a bridge were damaged in the 1954 flood, but it didn’t impact the CBD.

Lorraine Webber said it was “like a raging river” in her fabric shop, which she has owned for nine years.

“I was up to my waist along here trying to save all our shops with sandbags,” she said.

“I was so proud of it, but I’ll see what I can do.

“You can’t wash anything and reuse it because this is just not water: it’s sludge, it’s mud, it’s water, it’s sewerage, it’s everything, you’ve got to get out.”

Hairdresser Deslie O’Leary’s salon in the CBD was inundated, but she’s glad her home was not damaged.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

Deslie O’Leary bought her hairdressing business in the town seven years ago and said she had never seen it like this before.

“Casino doesn’t flood. It doesn’t flood, so you don’t expect it and I don’t think anyone was prepared for what’s happened,” she said.

But Ms O’Leary was thankful she and her loved ones still had a roof over their heads.

“We didn’t lose a home,” she said.

A man standing outside his flooded house.
Michael Bill is dealing with things at home before he checks on his business in south Lismore.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

Business and home gone

Michael Bill has lost both his business and his home in the space of a few days.

As he watched the water rise around his house, Mr Bill and his 14-year-old daughter had no choice but to act.

“It’s come up to probably half a metre under the awning, so we stayed as long as we could and then we just got garbage bags and put what belongings we could in them and swum out with the dog and the animals,” he said.

“And that was it. All the walls are done, the doors, we were lucky enough upstairs, so it’s just a big clean-up.”

Flooded household goods on the street.
The council will begin clearing the rubbish caused by the unprecedented flooding in the town.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

Like many people affected by the disaster, Mr Bill did not have flood insurance for his home or business.

“It’s very expensive to have and to fork out every year and you never do a claim, but sometimes you probably need it,” he said.

A building about half-submerged in floodwater.
The croquet club was inundated for the first time.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

Grim first for club

The Casino Croquet Club sits right on the banks of the Richmond River.

In its century-long history there is no record of water ever inundating the building, but that changed on Tuesday.

A woman stands in a building indicating the high watermark of a flood.
Ms Condon said she was certain the water wouldn’t rise as high as it did.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

“In the morning the greens were dry,” secretary Leonie Condon said.

“[Then] devastation: covered in water and everything in here knocked over and in the shed.

“There’s a lot of old memorabilia that we’re trying to dry out … whether we’ll be successful I’m not sure.”

Empty shelves in a shop.
Casino will have to contend with supply issues as well as the clean-up.(ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders)

‘We’ll get through it’

The floodwaters have now receded from Casino, but Richmond Valley Council is now facing the challenge of restocking food and fuel supplies.

“The challenge we’ve got now is supply, because everything is cut off,” council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said.

“There’s just so much going on at times you sort of feel like your head’s spinning.

“Everyone was just shaking their head. They’ve just never seen it that wide, that big and obviously it hasn’t happened before, that water has come into the Casino CBD.

“[We’ve] just got to stick together and we’ll get through it.”

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