Airlifted bride joins clean-up after Australian floods turned deadly

Mrs Kate Bell had arrived at her wedding on March 20 in a helicopter organised by a local television station in an ordeal that made global news.
Mrs Kate Bell had arrived at her wedding on March 20 in a helicopter organised by a local television station in an ordeal that made global news.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - A bride who was airlifted to her wedding after being stranded by floodwaters in Australia last Saturday (March 20) has revealed she is not on a honeymoon but is instead undertaking the same dreary activity as her fellow residents in rain-hit areas - cleaning up.

Mrs Kate Bell, formerly Fotheringham, had arrived at her wedding north of Sydney in a helicopter organised by a local television station, in an ordeal that made global news. But she revealed on Wednesday that she is now wearing gumboots and helping to clean the house of her godmother, who was evacuated.

"We're still in gumboots, I had them on under my wedding dress and we've been wearing them for about six days straight, so we're spending our honeymoon covered in mud," she told The Central Western Daily, the local newspaper.

Mrs Bell said her new husband is in the middle of university studies and that the couple had already planned to have a delayed honeymoon.

"I could've handled a bit of rain or some mud, but a once-in-a-generation flood just wasn't cool," she said.

"We'll certainly be having a good holiday once this is all over."

Despite the emergence of sunshine in Sydney on Wednesday after days of torrential rain, the flooding has continued to take a toll across the country's east coast. Two deaths in floodwaters were confirmed on Wednesday, marking the first fatalities from flooding that caused evacuations of about 20,000 people.

Police said a 25-year-old man died after his car was submerged in waters in Sydney. The man, a Pakistani national, was on his first day of a new job as a contractor and had called police at 6.20am on Wednesday to say his car was "sinking". He then remained on the phone to the operator for 44 minutes until contact was lost.

"At 7.04am, it's believed contact was lost," Detective Inspector Chris Laird told reporters.

"What's happened is a complete tragedy. The fact that he was on the phone for so long is even more tragic... a man that is possibly about to pass away, and he's on the phone, and the water's rising."

Police said it was not clear why the man was unable to leave the car and are investigating a possible electrical failure.

"You can only just imagine somebody fighting for their life to get out of a car... he clearly couldn't get out," said Detective Inspector Laird.

In the state of Queensland, police divers recovered the body of a 38-year-old man from an overturned car in a river. The man had gone missing on Monday during a period of flash flooding on the Gold Coast.

"The time he's gone missing, as we know, was in a terrible weather period for the Gold Coast," said Senior Sergeant Mitchell Gray.

Almost 200 schools remained closed in New South Wales on Wednesday as emergency services continued to provide relief to stranded communities.

A girl watches a local resident walk through the floodwaters in the suburb of Windsor, near Sydney, on March 24, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

A resident observes flood damage in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, on March 23, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

As the sun finally came out in parts of the state, evacuated residents returned to waterlogged houses to inspect the damage. Emergency services workers were joined by builders and forklift drivers to help residents clear muddy slime and debris from their houses.

Ms Sharon Jones, a resident of Port Macquarie, about 400km north of Sydney, said the waters had been "crazy".

"That's my life out there on the lawn," she told The Daily Telegraph.

"It's just memories that I've lost; I can make new ones now."

The unusual downpours have been attributed to the La Nina weather pattern and a wetter-than-average summer as well as the possible influence of climate change, which is causing more extreme and frequent weather-related disasters. The floods are believed to have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and farmland.

Flood warnings and evacuation orders remained in place on Wednesday in parts of Sydney and the northern coast. Trees, cars, fridges and other household items have reportedly been turning up on beaches or washing out to sea.

Across Sydney, roads remained blocked by stagnant puddles and thousands of households are believed to have suffered damage. In Centennial Park, just outside the central business district, a football field was turned into a makeshift lake.

As the sun came out on Wednesday, children - joined by occasional ducks - were able to swim instead of playing cricket or football.