Sitting on a muddy chair in front of her flood-ravaged Lismore home, Georgena Schulz is counting small blessings.
She says her household lost almost everything when about half a metre of water inundated the second storey during the town’s near-record flood.
“I said if my guitar was all right
then I wouldn’t complain about
anything else,” she said as her brother and friend drank beers and smoked cigarettes after returning to their home yesterday.
“We have to live for small blessings.”
Two women have been killed by New South Wales flood waters after ex-cyclone Debbie dumped heavy rainfall on large parts of the state.
It’s still being determined whether a man, whose body was found at a South Murwillumbah caravan park, died as a result of flooding.
A 46-year-old man also died at his Murwillumbah home but it is understood he had not entered the floods.
Most of Lismore’s roads have now reopened after the river peaked at 11.6m, its highest since 1974.
About 2.30pm yesterday, the SES lifted evacuation orders for north and south Lismore after earlier urging residents not to return prematurely.
Acting deputy commissioner Mark Morrow said buildings may be structurally unsound and there were still issues with sanitation.
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith described the town as “a war zone” and said about 60 businesses were still inundated on yesterday morning.
At Minesh Solanki’s discount store, staff members were helping clean up items swept from shelves by the flood.
Mr Solanki says it could be months before he reopens with full stock.
He expects the damage bill to come in at about $250,000 and hopes he’s not forced to close with two years on the lease.
“This is our pride and joy,” Solanki said, adding he was not sure if his area qualified for flood insurance.
“My wife loves this store.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who will visit the region today, urged residents to be patient as authorities surveyed the damage.
“This is a huge catastrophe,” she said in Sydney. “This is a massive, massive natural disaster.”
According to the SES, about 15,000 properties were isolated by floodwater and about double that were subject to evacuation orders.
The Rural Fire Service is setting up a base camp for hundreds of emergency service workers to help with the clean-up effort.
The small Aboriginal community of Cabbage Tree Island was evacuated as the water rushed downstream on Saturday.
Thousands of sandbags have been used at Ballina but it is now thought residents will not have to leave the town. AAP