With warnings that Cyclone Marcia would be category 4 when it crossed the Queensland coast on February 19-20th 2015, RRT was planning for the disaster that was ahead. The Queensland RRT trailer had been relocated to Bundaberg, a high-risk area. Thankfully Bundaberg suffered little damage; however there was flooding predicted for further south.
The cyclone system entered the Mary River catchment area on Thursday and Friday and the town of Gympie began preparing for a major flood. Around midday Friday, RRT services were requested, with the team being asked to provide meals for at least the next three days.
With rainfall totals of 120 – 200mm recorded in the Mary River catchment area in the 24 hours to 9am Saturday, river levels upstream continued to rise. With further rainfall predicted, residents prepared to evacuate businesses in the lower CBD.
Throughout the flood event the RRT provided a total of 122 meals from Friday night through to Sunday night catering for a variety of emergency personnel including SES, Police, Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Energex and the local disaster management group.
Friday tea, Saturday breakfast and lunch were served to both the South side services and the north side services from the RRT trailer. However, after the Mary River broke its banks on Saturday, flooding the main bridge and cutting access to the north side of town, Saturday tea and all meals on Sunday were supplied on the south side and delivered across the swollen river to the rest of the team in the SES flood boat.
By the time the river had peaked overnight Saturday at 16.6 metres it had flooded around 20 businesses. Fortunately no homes were inundated, but Gympie’s major bridges were cut, along with the Bruce Highway to the north and south of the town.
The team received many positive comments from the emergency services who were particularly appreciative of the hot meal at the end of each day.
Meanwhile the cyclone aftermath was heading south, and now dumping huge amounts of rain on Brisbane. Early Saturday morning, the decision was made to transfer the QLD RRT trailer back to the Brisbane base, with the highway being cut just behind them as they passed through Gympie.
Before the trailer arrived a call came from SES Depot Salisbury. Their teams, who had been working 12 hour shifts, had been deployed for three days and were living on takeaways.
Brisbane RRT rushed to provide an evening meal for over 35 hungry SES workers who were very appreciative to receive something substantial.
“This is the best meal we have had since deployment on Thursday” one SES worker remarked. “You don’t know what it means to us to come back and have a good hot meal provided for us” was another’s comment.
On Sunday afternoon another call for assistance in Brisbane came through. 50 lunch packs were required for Monday morning. The teams again rushed into action and were at SES Newmarket at 7.30am Monday to deliver the requested meals.
The reason for the lunch packs was soon explained – with the workload in Brisbane decreasing, a convoy of 10 vehicles with 50 SES team members was being deployed to Rockhampton to assist with the massive recovery efforts there. With a 10-12 hour drive ahead, the SES was glad of a substantial lunch pack to break the journey.
“I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for what you have been doing for us” the Local Controller said “We will definitely be working together more in future disaster events”