HOLLISDALE, Australia (Reuters) – Robert Costigan thought the worst was behind him when he saved two family properties from wildfires last summer.
This year, they drifted away.
The home of Australian breeder and father-in-law Brian Watt, who lives next door, swept its foundations this month when heavy rains caused the river to reach its highest level in half a century, submerging bridges and buildings. Watt’s house crashed into a telegraph pole.
“If it weren’t for bad luck, I probably wouldn’t have had any at all,” Costigan told Reuters on his 100-acre property in Hollisdale, 400 km (249 miles) north of Sydney.
Days after the flood, the property was filled with farm equipment, trees and overturned debris.
“I don’t know if it’s just someone testing me or what, but that’s what I guess. You can get through it, ”he added, holding back tears.
Costigan’s ordeal is familiar to thousands of people living outside the cities on Australia’s densely populated east coast.
After years of drought devastating crops and livestock, they battled the country’s worst wildfires in a generation in the southern hemisphere’s 2019-20 summer, only to face flooding amidst this year’s La Nina wet weather event.
The same river system Costigan used to pump water to save her home from wildfires has returned to destroy it with floods.
The water level had receded but the insurance company had removed the building, with the wooden structures torn off, the tin roof shattered and everyday objects – mattresses, fluffy children’s toys – in disarray.
When the fire broke out, the family remained safe in the city because Costigan remained on the property in an effort to protect it. Now they all live with neighbors, homeless and heartbroken.
Two days before the house was swept away, Costigan’s daughter, Eva, had to cancel her 11th birthday party because of the flood.
“He was upset about it and then we had to tell him he lost his house Saturday morning. “All the gifts he got on Thursday are gone,” said Costigan.
Even so, the 39-year-old farmer, who also works for the local council, vows to rebuild.
“I’ve worked too hard to just walk away,” he said.
Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Written by Byron Kaye; Edited by Karishma Singh