UPDATE: Couple in their 80s who lost their caravan in floods find a new home

ABOVE: Beryl Warne and Ian Keen at their temporary home at Camp Koinonia in Evans Head. Beryl holds the porcelain swan figurine that survived the flood at Broadwater. Photo: Susann Freymark

Susanna Freymark

Sarah Butler has been helping Ian and Beryl find a permanent home after they lost their caravan in Broadwater in the floods.

They had to leave the cabin where they were staying at Camp Koinonia by the end of April.

The good news is they have found a home.

“I was almost convinced finding them something in the region for their budget was impossible,” Sarah said.

“Fast forward 24 hours we had an offer and 24 hours after that a handshake agreement with a lovely couple in Evans Head who I just know will look out for them.

“It has been a rough few weeks but this little win has filled our hearts with so much hope and joy.”

One item Ian and Beryl need is a queen bed frame.

“If anyone has one and is willing to donate please let me know. Ideally they need about a foot clearance underneath to allow for additional storage as their new home has limited space.”

Contact Sarah on Facebook.


When Beryl Warne was half asleep in bed, she pulled the sheet up to keep herself warm.

But the sheet was wet.

She woke Ian Keen next to her.

Water was already knee deep in their caravan home at Broadwater.

Their home of 10 years was drowning.

Ian reached for the torch by the bed. It was floating and went “flying into the water”, he said.

“We got Beryl’s mother’s clock and put it up on the fridge,” Ian said.

“I put my wallet in a high cupboard.”

It was Tuesday March 1. It had been raining for days but Beryl and Ian hadn’t been too concerned.

“We were told it would be a small flood,” Ian said.

It wasn’t. What followed for the couple in their 80s was a night they’ll never forget.

A night where they lost their home, plants, identity documents — they lost everything.

As the water reached waist deep in the caravan, Beryl and Ian sought higher ground.

“We went to the amenities block and stayed there for a while,” Ian said.

The floodwaters rose.

The couple moved to the veranda of a cabin.

The water  kept rising.

“Sand crickets were biting and crawling into places they shouldn’t,” Ian said.

Ian’s health wasn’t the best, Beryl was a diabetic and neither of them could swim.

The water was chest high and Beryl climbed onto the veranda railing.

A woman across from them was coming out of her container home, carrying her little dog in a plastic box.

She called for help, Ian said.

“She was stark naked.”

While Beryl held the dog, the naked woman went and screamed at the caravan owner’s door for help.

Bart McKew heard her and came to the rescue in a kayak.

“No way I’m getting in that,” Ian said when he saw the kayak.

Ian had lost half a lung to cancer and had three ribs taken out when they removed part of his lung.

Bart went back, bashed down a tin fence and got the boat.

Beryl and Ian were taken to the roof of a shed. They walked across it to a high back veranda.

“I was puffing and panting,” Ian said. “I wasn’t feeling the best and sat on a chair for a while.”

The pair were in their wet pyjamas and shivering from the freezing floodwaters.

Bart was busy saving another seven people and bringing them to the veranda.

“A police boat pulled up,” Ian said.

By this time, Beryl was in need of insulin.

Along the way, in the  boat, they stopped and asked everyone they saw along the Evans Head Broadwater Rd if they had insulin. No one did.

At a part of the road that wasn’t flooded, Beryl and Ian disembarked. They stood shivering in the darkness.

Another boat came and took them to the chemist in Evans Head for insulin. The chemist wouldn’t give the insulin without a prescription. They had to find a doctor, get a prescription and return to the chemist. They ended up at the Evans Head RSL evacuation centre.

“There were more than 150 people there,” Beryl said. “Too many to count.”

“They wrapped us in blankets from St Vincent de Paul,” Ian said.

I still have them, he said and pointed to the bedroom of their small house at Camp Koinonia in Evans Head.

It’s where they are staying until the end of the month.

“This place is marvellous,” Ian said,

“At night I can hear the ocean roaring,” Beryl said.

A few days after their rescue and when floodwaters had receded, Beryl and Ian went back to their caravan.

It was a write off. All Beryl’s loved plants were destroyed. They did find Ian’s wallet in the cupboard and Beryl’s handbag.

And a porcelain swan was recovered.

Beryl’s mother had given her two of them. given to her by her mother. One survived.

And so too did Ian and Beryl who face life together with a sturdy, quiet optimism.

The caravan home of Beryl and Ian at Broadwater.
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