Feb 07, 2019

FIFO families ride out flood crisis with help from friends

FIFO families ride out flood crisis with help from friends The waterlogged scene at the Irwin family home in Kirwan.

Noel Irwin was hundreds of kilometres away in north-west Queensland as floodwaters lapped the carport of his family home in Kirwan, Townsville.

Mr Irwin is among the workers at MMG Dugald River, 65km north-west of Cloncurry, where heavy rainfall has cut access roads out of the zinc mine.

The engineering and planning superintendent was unable to return home to wife Kerry and the three daughters aged 19 to 22 still living at home, along with his niece, as the Bohle River rose during the Townsville disaster.

“It was quite stressful but the people here with families in Townsville all banded together and tried to support each other as best we could,” Mr Irwin said.

Noel Irwin with wife Kerry.

“It’s very difficult when you can’t get home and have to offer that support on the phone.”

Mr Irwin said he and others had tried to keep abreast of the unfolding situation back in Townsville through many text messages and Facebook posts.

“On Sunday night when they opened the floodgates (for Ross River Dam) a lot of people out here were on edge because they had family back home and they knew they couldn’t actually physically get there to help because we were flooded in ourselves out here and Cloncurry was going through a huge rainstorm,” he said.

Mrs Irwin had decided to ride it out in the upper storey of their home, along with their daughters

“I’m an early riser and when I got up the next morning I said (by phone) ‘are you still with me?’,” he said.

The family in Kirwan and his mother, in her 70s, who lives in the Kalynda Chase estate, all came through OK, he said.

“The flood waters from the rising Bohle River were just short of entering our garage, but did enter our front and side yards,” he said.

“It was only that our kind neighbours started digging a trench to release the water that we had no impact.”

Good neighbours had provided great support for his family during the danger periods, Mr Irwin said.

Mr Irwin said MMG had worked hard to get those most affected by the Townsville disaster back home as soon as possible.

He was able to return home on Wednesday afternoon, but road access to and from the mine remains limited and intermittent due to inundation.  

Mr Irwin has been a fly-in, fly-out worker for about 16 years, working at Century mine before shifting to Dugald River about three years ago.

“Having been doing this for a long time, it has its challenges,” he said. “But there’s a good side too, because you do get to spend a lot of quality time with family (on rest days).”

Water blocks the road into Dugald River mine.

Dugald River mine general manager Sam Rodda said the site’s road access to Cloncurry and neighbouring towns had been cut from Thursday night last week.

The mine site itself had held up well in the wet, with mining and processing operations able to continue, he said.

Mr Rodda said Dugald River had a large contingent of Townsville-based workers.

“From MMG and Dugald River our condolences go out to those people who have lost property and are facing a big challenge – our employees, contract partners and greater Townsville,” he said.

“We’ll work with our employees to ensure they have flexibility to return their home life back as it was.”

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