“There is nothing to go home to”
“I honestly thought he was dead. I hadn’t heard from him…” Wife Jane, speaking about her husband Ben – presumed missing.
The image of the beautiful city of Lismore being inundated with water was one of the most traumatic images of the 2022 floods.
Just five years since the ‘big’ flood of 2017, days of torrential rain saw some of Lismore’s 43,000 residents perched on rooftops waiting to be rescued.
One of those people was a young Dad and father-of-three, Ben Smith* who stayed on his rural property to protect it, while his wife Jane and children fled to safety.
But what Ben didn’t know was the sheer scale of the disaster that was happening around him after more than 700mm of rainfall fell in just 30 hours. Ben and Jane are family Producers in the Lismore region.
They enjoyed a simple, but hardworking life on the farm with their young family – two toddlers and a baby.
Then the catastrophic floods hit in March 2022.
During the two days of constant heavy rain their home was washed away, and they lost a large portion of their farm income. Their off-farm business was also badly affected.
A couple of years ago Ben started an off-farm business to diversify the family income to provide for his growing family. This plan was working nicely.
That was until the one in a thousand-year flood.
For his wife Jane, it’s still traumatic for her to re-live the experience of the 2022 floods and how close they came to losing Ben.
“It was terrifying. Ben told me to grab enough supplies for a few days and that we would be back on the farm. I waded through a foot of water, which quickly turned waist deep just trying to grab what I could in the house. We were then picked up and taken to higher ground across the road.”
Later that night, Ben and Jane were messaging and phoning each other to keep up-to-date with how he was going on the farm.
For Jane, it was so reassuring to know he was ok.
Then all of a sudden Ben dropped his phone when he was swept off the house roof.
“I honestly thought he was dead. I hadn’t heard from him. The last time I spoke to him that night, he told me that the SES had said that they couldn’t help him.
So I was on the phone trying to get help, to then be told that the SES wouldn’t be able to get to the farmhouse until 10:30 pm the next night. I know that they were snowed under, but I needed my husband, and I hadn’t heard from him.” Jane hadn’t heard from Ben for a while. She was understandably thinking that something terrible had happened to him. “I was beside myself. Everything was going through my head.”
Had I lost my husband to these floods?
Had he been rescued from the roof?
Was he somewhere safe?
Will our children be ok without a Daddy?
Everything wasn’t ok for Jane and her family at this point. “I was able to get onto a friend that had a boat and they went to the house to see if he was still there. Ben had been swept from the house roof but managed to climb onto the shed roof.” Thankfully they got there just in time. The roof on the shed had started to lift and, if the shed roof broke free, he would have been swept away. “It was such a traumatic event for everyone. Not knowing where we’d be going, what was happening to our loved ones, our homes, our livestock, anything.”
“I don’t know how, but we did not lose any livestock – only one horse. Thankfully we still have each other, everything else can be replaced.”
Jane is still overwhelmed with the magnitude of the damage – not only to their house but also to their property. Fences have been ripped out, paddocks flattened. Cattle yards, sheds, and the family home were no match for the force of the torrents. The volume of water picked up their house and moved it more than 40 metres away.
Watch this video to see the impact of the floods on this young family.
When they reached out to Drought Angels, Ben and Jane were staying at their parent’s place, for what was meant to be just a few days.
“We have now been here for almost five months and it’s affecting everyone. My family of five sleep in one room. The girls are on the floor up against the baby’s portacot and no one gets a decent night’s sleep. I am just exhausted. I want to go home but there is nothing to go home to.”
For so many young families in the Lismore region, like Ben and Jane, their lives were changed overnight. But thanks to generous supporters like you, Drought Angels have been able to provide some short-term relief to this family including a Mastercard worth $1,500 and product worth $3,118.
This support was personally delivered by our Angels on The Road.
Our Angels travel thousands of kilometres each year to visit farmers in need and travel to some of the most remote and disaster-ridden areas of our country.
Our Angels on the Phone team are calling the Smith family each month and will do so for the remainder of the year to check in and ensure their mental health and well-being are being looked after.
Did you know? Drought Angels – through incredible donors just like you – have been able to help 147 flood-affected primary producers since March 2022. Thank you for doing your part in helping these communities.
*Names withheld to protect their anonymity