OPINION: The stench of a flood and the bodies it leaves behind

Susanna Freymark

Water is life. Except when there’s too much. And it becomes a flood. Then it is death.

It’s what the fast-flowing waters carry that is the problem, and when they reach low lying areas like Tatham, Coraki and Woodburn, they have nowhere to go.

The water carries mud, rubbish and fridges caught up in the fierce flow of water along the Richmond River.

Each community that is slowly emerging from the floodwaters faces this problem.

Cow corpses by the road, stranded cars, dead birds and snakes splattered on the bitumen.

The stench though is the worst.

The dead bodies of bloated cows and that water. Stagnant, still, smelly.

The place smells like death.

Noisy corellas search the brown crops looking for food but the plants are covered in mud – dying, dead. The birds perch on the telegraph wires squawking in protest.

Amid all this Tatham residents clean their houses and put their ruined belongings and furniture into large piles on the edge of the Coraki-Casino Rd.

Round hay bales sit in trees instead of paddocks or by the road as if waiting to be collected.

The shredded green plastic from the bales hangs in the tree tops like streamers at a sad birthday party. This plastic litter will create another problem in the waterways.

Tatham cattle farmers Elaine and Darcy Trustum say they’re lucky.

Most of their cattle swam to safety and sought refuge in the garden.

That beloved garden is now mud. Clumpy, smelly mud.

Elaine points to where her roses once were. And to the fence where the passionfruit vine was.

It’s as if she can still see them and can’t believe they are gone.

“The cows ate all the passionfruit,” Elaine says with a quiet laugh.

Only two of her chickens survived. Darcy heads out to the chookhouse with a large bag to collect the bodies of the other chickens that the Trustums put in a loft thinking they would be safe there. They weren’t.

“Come round for a cup of tea when this is cleaned up,” Elaine says.

“I’ll bring some flowers,” I shout back.

And I will. And I’ll make sure they are beautiful roses. The best I can find.

Here’s the photos from Tatham on March 4 after floodwaters had subsided

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