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17 June, 2021

Plea for help after sewage flood

FRIENDS have set up a Go Fund Me page to help a Cairns family of six who lost all their possessions when raw sewage flooded their house last month.

By Tanya Murphy

Melissa Marshall in the hotel room she is sharing with her partner and four children.

Melissa Marshall, her partner George Ryan and their four children have been sharing a single room at the Cairns Colonial Club ever since untreated waste flooded out of the shower drain at their Bentley Park rental home on May 29.

The home was not covered by contents insurance and almost all their possessions, including brand new furniture and clothing still in boxes from recently moving to the property, were irreparably damaged after being immersed in up to 10 centimetres of sewage.

The couple kept their children out of the flood zone but risked a range of sewage-borne diseases to wade around trying to salvage their belongings, mostly unsuccessfully.

Cairns Regional Council General Manager for Water and Resource Recovery Mark Wuth said the flood was caused by a blockage in the main.

Council provided the family with three nights of emergency accommodation while the property was pressure cleaned, disinfected and sanitised, and since then their landlord has paid for their hotel accommodation while the house undergoes renovations including installation of new floorboards.

The family have lodged a claim with the Council, but as it is currently being assessed by Council’s insurers, the family have been waiting weeks, and may have to wait several more before they find out if they are eligible for compensation.

“I’ve been asked to provide quotes for all the items we lost but I’m not holding my breath, there’s no guarantee we will get anything,” said Ms Marshall.

Local charities helped the family with some second-hand items, but in a single hotel room with no cooking facilities, they have been living off takeaway, an arrangement which has been very costly, and that’s not to mention the setbacks to the family’s income.

“I was close to finishing my Cert Three and was already looking for jobs relating to that, but I lost my laptop and all my notes, so I had to defer it until next year,” said Ms Marshall.

“My son is a third-year butcher’s apprentice, and he lost his apprenticeship notes and all his bookwork.

“We’re now an hour round trip away from the kids’ school, and we’ve had to purchase new school uniforms, which I have to pay to wash at a laundromat every night. The costs are adding up while we wait for news.”

The family are in despair at finding anywhere permanent to live and may have to face the traumatic prospect of moving back into the affected property.

“I know what the rental crisis is like in Cairns and I think it’s going to be next to impossible to secure another rental,” she said.

“At this stage I feel like we have no choice but to go back to that house once it’s all fixed, but I will have to spend a couple of days going over it myself before I let the kids move back in, just for my peace of mind.”

Ms Marshall said they had to keep changing rooms due to the hotel being heavily booked, and the experience was taking its toll on the family’s mental health.

“The last week has been very difficult with the two younger ones, being crammed in the small hotel room with no personal space, and it’s getting harder by the day,” she said.

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