On June 6, 2016 residents of Latrobe and the surrounding Mersey river valley awoke to the sound of rising water, some residents would step out of bed directly into the floodwaters as it begun to swamp their homes.
In the days prior, more than 200mm (8 inches) of rain had fallen and the Mersey was one of many rivers overflowing and well on the way to breaking historic flood level records. It was a disastrous few days which would eventually claim 4 lives and leave a damage bill of an estimated $180 million, the worst flooding in Tasmania since 1929.
The Mersey is a major river in the North-West of Tasmania, it originates at Lake Meston at an elevation of 950m and flows through many rural communities who rely on it for farming, water and power, it eventually exits at Devonport into Bass Strait 157kms later.
Over the next few days thousands would be evacuated and the turbulent water would destroy homes and farmland; crops were washed away and eventually replaced with huge piles of river rocks dumped by the flooding river which is now substantially wider due to the erosion along the banks. Common picnic areas and campgrounds are not recognisable or no longer exist. Livestock and pets had no chance, some were lucky enough to be rescued at the last bend in the river but many were washed out to sea.
The flow rate was so strong it dragged boats out to sea still attached to their mooring, it broke the main yacht club marina from the dock with dozens of boats attached, they were pushed out to sea or sunk after being smashed onto the rocky coastline.
As the disaster unfolded people united to help those who were affected most; filling sandbags to stop the water, organising food deliveries and extra clothing. The emergency services, police and army were rescuing people stranded in their homes using helicopters and army trucks while others volunteers on paddle boards, kayaks and jet skis took on the job to muster floating cows who were washed kilometers downstream and drag them back to dry land.
At the 6 month after mark, some homes were still un-inhabitable, piles of debris along coastal beaches and unsettled insurance claims keep dragging on for locals.
For a region which has ongoing economic struggles and is normally sheltered from natural disasters, this was a big hit. It will be embedded in the memories of Tasmanians for a long time, including myself. Documenting this flood was an important part of my year and I feel honoured to have the outlets to show the world what is happening in this small corner of Australia.