Bill Hayes has survived a close call during the NSW flood crisis, with the Eugowra resident and thoroughbred trainer rescued by helicopter from the roof of his house.
In what was described as an inland “tsunami”, flood waters hit Eugowra on Monday morning, leaving a trail of destruction as 90% of the town’s building were destroyed or damaged by a wall of water.
The town’s flood alarm system sounded in the early hours of the morning, warning residents in low lying areas prone to flooding they’d need to evacuate.
Then at 6.15am, an emergency alert was issued by the SES to all residents, but it was too late to leave, with many residents such as Hayes left to find higher ground before over 150 people were eventually rescued by a team of 14 rescue choppers
“I thought we might be okay, but when the water got 100mm off my door, I knew it was time to leave,” Hayes said.
“My house is 1.2 metres off the ground, so I knew it was getting high and I called triple zero and me and the dog got up on the roof.
“We were up there for about two hours, and they took him first and put him up there, and then I went up there.”
Hayes, who would normally have 12 or more horses in work on the same property, said he was lucky that an upcoming knee surgery meant his team were spelling on a farm on higher ground.
“I had turned them all out because I was supposed to get a new knee, and I’ve got another horse property that is on a little hill and I had them all in the paddock across the road,” Hayes said.
“The bloke that rents the place opened the gate for me and they naturally went up to higher ground.”
Hayes has been in Eugowra for 32 years, and he said it’s the worst flood he has seen in that time.
“Because it is a floodplain, we do get floods, but normally only ankle deep and the flood in 1990 was bad, but this was probably a metre higher,” Hayes said.
“This was a lot higher than I’ve ever seen, and I reckon about 20 houses were washed away in town. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Hayes was hoping to get back to his property today, as his attention was firmly on the welfare of his horses and stock.
“The only thing I’ve got to worry about is whether I’ve lost my cows and calves,” Hayes said.
“I had 64 of them. I am pretty confident the cows will be okay, but some of the young calves would have struggled in the water.”
It was a terrifying ordeal for Hayes and the residents of Eugowra, and Western Zone superintendent Brigid Rice stated the flooding and flood damage to Eugowra and surrounding towns was beyond anything anyone in the region had seen before.
“The floods we’ve seen over the last four weeks have broken every type of record,” Rice said.
“We’re moving out of the response phase now and we will transition into recovery.
“The days, weeks and months moving forward are very long.”