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DISASTROUS FLOOD IN THE
Mr. J. Warne, of Warneton, has furnished the S. M. Herald with the following account of the late disastrous flood in the Macleay River. Writing under date of 13th August, that gentleman says :
" I consider it my duty to make you acquainted with a most melancholy catastrophe, which occurred here on the night of the 9th instant, overwhelming most of the in- habitants of this district with utter ruin, and leaving them in positive distress, from want of bedding, clothing, and the common necessaries of life-in order that, through your powerful advocacy, the sympathies of a generous public may be excited on their behalf.
" I have resided on the north bank of the district, about six miles above Kempsey, for the last nineteen years, and have always considered the opposite estate of Collatina, and that of Euroka immediately adjoining, to be safe from any flood, it never having, during so many years, been flooded. This idea has been painfully dissi pated by the occurrences of the last few days. It com- menced raining here on the morning of the 6th, and there was heavy rain on the nights of the 7th and 8th. About noon on the 8th the river began to rise, and by midnight on the 9th had risen to the enormous height of about forty feet, being about seven feet higher than the great flood of January, 1848, which the abori- gines declare to have been the highest ever seen. So rapid a rise could not have been owing to four days' local rain, as the flood of 1848 was after fifteen days rain, but must have arisen from some extraordinary snow melting or rain in New England. About ten at night on the 9th I was alarmed by the lamenta- tions of women and children, and cries of distress on the opposite, bank distant perhaps two hundred yards from numerous parties, and entreaties for boats ; but my frail bark, built expressly for speed, could not have lived many seconds in the tempestuous torrent then raging, and amidst the heavy timber floating down, and there- fore I was unable to render any assistance. Fortunately the schooner Woodpecker was lying near the south bank, and hearing the cries, the captain sent his boat, and in three trips saved the families of Grace, Judd, and Bowen, consisting of twenty-nine men, women, and children. The men and women had to wade up to their armpits, carrying the children on their backs ; and the current was so strong they could hardly keep their feet. Afterwards the captain sent his boat for the families of Jones, Jeffreys, and Wedlock, and took seventeen into it, but the current was so strong it was impossible to make the vessel, and the boat was obliged to remain tied to a stump till daylight, with the whole party of men, women, and children in it. The captain and crew of the Woodpecker behaved with the accustomed hospitality of British seamen, and vied with each other in administering to the unfortunates dry clothing and food, both very ne- cessary, as none of them had saved anything but what they had on their backs. The captain deserves some tes- timonial, as without his assistance, accompanied with considerable danger, forty people would doubtless have
" When morning dawned the sight was truely pitiable. The houses and barns of Grace, Everson, and Judd had disappeared ; Bowen's were standing, but the roof of his house was nearly covered with water. Other barns and houses had also disappeared, and by mid-day the barns of D. Clancy and the houses of Jeffrey and H. Wedlock, and the houses and barns of Jones, Ward, Curtin, Boyer, and Rooney, Patrick, and Crossman. Many of these buildings disappeared, not from being carried away by the flood, as it never reached them, but from the banks, for many chains, caving in as the waters subsided. None of these parties saved anything but the clothes they wore. Thirty-five refugees from Euroka and Collatina assembled on the night of the 9th at John Chapman's, and forty-two at Tredgett's, on the high land at Euroka, making their way back in boats aoross the swamps in the rear of
" From the Collatina barn above 900 bushels of corn were washed away. Between my station and Belgrave, affairs were equally miserable. P. Smith, Ryan, Fox, Capin, Connor, James, Grace, Stanton, Woolford, Ram- say, Meyers, Selletce, and Gellon, lost everything but their lives. All their houses and barns, which were well stocked with corn, were submerged, and in most instances swept away. Their losses varied from 300 to 1000 bushels of corn each in nearly every case, and Brock was the only party who saved his barn and corn.
"The steamer Nautilus, lying a few fathoms above the Woodpecker, dragged her anchors, although she had steam up to ease them, and was swept on shore, where she now lies 200 yards from the river. Her new punt was struck by a log and washed from her, and now lies on shore 100 yards from the bank. The schooner Mary was swept away from her anchor through a gap made in the land, and is also high and dry some distance on land, all within sight of my house. The Woodpecker lost an anchor and chain, but is safe. Early on the morning of the 10th a messenger on horseback arrived with a message that the tenants at Yarrowell were on the roofs of their dwellings, expecting every instant to be washed away, and begged a boat might be sent. I immediately got in some working bullocks and dispatched a boat on a slide. On arriving at Yarrowell, my bullock driver found the schoolmaster astride on a log, with only his shirt on. He was promptly saved and brought to my station. The boat was left with the retatives of some of the parties, and next day I had the satisfaction of hearing it had arrived in time to save all the tenants, and not much too soon, as two children were nearly exhausted. Twenty-two men, women, and children were thus saved. The tenants, Fegan, M. Perry, W. Robertson, Owens, Doyle, and Perry, and Swindells, lost all they possessed.
"To the general discomfort, rain was falling for the next three days. I have a large mob of houseless men, women, and children on my station, but the efforts and means of one individual can do but little to alleviate so dire and general distress. I have not more than one ton of flour in my store. I shall be happy to receive con- tributions on behalf of the houseless, from Euroka to Yarrawell, either in money to buy seed corn, beef, tea, sugar, flour, blankets, rugs, bedding, seed and other potatoes, and clothes of every description. All these would be very serviceable, as there were two hundred men, women, and children on the morning of the 10th, lately dwelling from a mile below my station to Yarrowell, who had not either blankets, bedding, or clothes of any description save what they had on their backs, or any of the common necessaries of life, or the means of purchas- ¡ng them. I have doled out all the blankets and rugs in my store, and even some of the blankets from my own bed and yesterday I killed three fat bullooks for distri- bution. I would suggest no time should be lost. "Bis dat qui dat cito." I have much pleasure in testifying to the good feeling displayed by John Chapman, R. Tredgett, M Burns, Dufferty, Mills, and the few others who had roofs over their heads, in comforting and assisting to the best of their ability those who were not
"I have no account of the effects of the flood at Dong dinglong or Sherwood, nor from the lower end of the river, but I fear they have been very disastrous, and pro- bably some loss of life occasioned by the unprecedented and fast rise of the river, and its height being greatest at night; and from the fact that settlers are generally jammed in by the river on one side, and a swamp on the other, which rises from backwater as rapidly as the
" The losses is the aggregate may be thus summa-
Houses or huts destroyed. 30
Barns. 30 Maize or corn-bushels of upwards of. 20,000 Numbers of persons-constituting families of
men, women, and children, most of whom
are rendered homeless and destitute, about 200 Estimated value of property either destroyed,
swept away, or damaged by the floods, in- cluding houses, barns, household furniture, wearing apparel, and other personal effects,
and maize or corn, fully.£10,000 " The above losses are entirely limited to the Warneton district above Kempsey, and are wholly exclusive of the losses in the lower part of the river."
The Herald's correspondent, who writes on the 12th, 14th, and 16th, furnishes additional particulars. The river had then fallen considerably, and was revealing a scene of wide-spread misery. The majority of the houses from Fredericton to the heads of the Macleay had been swept away, or were falling through their foundations being undermined ; the banks of the river had been cut away into large bays ; the soil had been washed away from large portions of the land ; and between four and five hundred people had been reduced from comfort to
Amongst the incidents of the flood mentioned hy the correspondent are the following:-The house and farm of Mr. Gill at Christmas Creek were washed away, together with the house of Mr. Washington in the same neigh- bourhood ; the inmates escaped in boats. Mr. Kemp, a local magistrate, was driven from his home by the rush- ing waters. At East Kempsey, Mr. Tozer's store was flooded within a few feet of the roof. The house and stockyard of Mr. Marlem were washed away. A few yards farther on the house, barn, and kitchen of a small farmer, named Bushell, were all swept away. On Tues- day night, £20 were offered to any persons who would cross the ferry and bring the district medical practitionor to a dangerous and alarming care of sickness, but no one would venture. The roaring, rushing water, and the crashing timber swept down in immense masses, scared every one. Many attempts were made to save a poor man named Burns and his wife, who, driven from their house, sought refuge in a tree at West Kempsey, Boats were upset, and the lives of the rowers endangered ; but after being ex- posed during a great portion of one night and one day, the woman was rescued, but her husband could not be found. On Wednesday his dead body was found, it was owing to the coolness and intrepidity of a farmer named Rogers, assisted by George Hawe and another, that the unfortunate woman Burns was rescued from the tree to
which she had to clung for the greater portion of one night and day. At Seven Oaks, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Oakes had to fly from their houses, and took refuge upon a neighbouring hill, the top of which was not under water, but here they had to contend with another danger. Snakes swam there in great numbers, and it was a work of constant labour to keep them at bay. During the night this was only done by means of firesticks. A great num- ber of cattle of every description have been lost. One hundred horses have been drowned at Seven Oaks. The Government wharf at West Kempsey was washed away.
A report appear to have spread that several lives had been lost on the Upper Macleay, but it has been contra- dicted. The people whose houses were washed away escaped-some on logs, to available places of safety, and others by taking refuge in trees-and were rescued by boats manned by the police and volunteers. But very many of them had to hurry away without food, clothing, or bedding, and were consequently placed in a position of extreme want. In the absence of a magistrate, and the impossibility of communicating with any member of the bench, the clerk of the court obtained blankets and flour for the succour of persons in a state of destitution in the vicinity of Warneton and Belgrave-some of them in a state of nudity. Upwards of sixty people sought refuge on board a coasting vessel lying in Kinchela Creek. Private contributions obtained a supply of bread and meat, which was sent down the river, and it was melancholy to see how ravenously this food was seized.
On the 15th a meeting of the inhabitants was held at the Star Hotel, West Kempsey, to adopt all available means to afford succour to many persons who have lost everything during the recent calamitous inundation of this district. The Rev. John Bowes presided. The information given to the meeting recited ninety cases where houses and barns were destroyed. Mr. Warne read a list of persons who had lost everything but the clothes they had on when they fled to save their lives. A re- lief committe was appointed, and, in order to meet present emergencies, a sum has been advanced to pur- chase provisions. A treasurer was nominated, and a dele- gate, Mr. E. W. Rudder, proceeds to Sydney by the next steamer to support the request for aid from the Govern- ment. At the request of the meeting, the chairman has addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary, describing the fearful distress prevalent, the impossibility of obtaining assistance adequate to what ¡s required from any other source than the public Treasury, and soliciting immediate help in the shape of flour, tea, sugar, and blankets.
The Empire also publishes details of the flood, gleaned from the Macleay Herald and from information supplied by Mr. Rudder.