Residents in Mogo say the second collapse of the Veitch Street bridge by floods in two years was "totally preventable".
On Wednesday, November 29, Veitch Street residents were cut off from their community for at least 30 hours after a flash flood completely submerged and decimated the bridge.
At least 20 households had no access to food and emergency services as water dismantled the bridge which is their only route to Mogo and the rest of the South Coast.
Luckily, telecommunications services and the street's main water supply were not cut off. The two pipes delivering those supplies were precariously suspended in mud after the bridge fell away.
By 7am, four culverts were crushed into the bed of Mogo Creek and the concrete pedestrian footpath had cracked under the pressure of the floodwater.
There was no way into Veitch Street and no way out.
Kim Gibson moved into her Veitch Street home soon after the 2019/20 bushfires. When the bridge collapsed, she was holidaying in Cairns and watched the damage unfold on her home security system.
"I was in panic mode," she said.
Her father-in-law was at Ms Gibson's home at the time and sent photos and videos of her fences being washed away with the bridge.
On Wednesday morning, she began calling the council to get more information about damage to the bridge and access to town for her father-in-law.
"I rang the council 10 times, I left messages...I heard nothing," Ms Gibson said.
She is frustrated the council was unable to offer any information about the clean-up and rebuild of the bridge more than 10 hours after the collapse.
"We've had more communication from the other residents than the council," Ms Gibson said.
"We got a letter [last year] saying there was talk of a new bridge. I still have that letter on the fridge."
Large concrete slabs were delivered to the Veitch Street and Church Street intersection months ago, supposedly for a permanent replacement, but Ms Gibson is yet to see work begin.
"I just wish they would help us and tell us to sit tight.
"I think [the residents] are over it. Clearly, their cries for help haven't done much."
Temporary measures in place
On the morning of Thursday, November 30, council workers laid down gravel, rocks and geofabric over the culverts, crumbled tar and earth to create a temporary crossing for residents.
Council's director of infrastructure services Graham Attenborough said the temporary crossing is naturally not as "robust" as a permanent crossing. He said the strength of the temporary measures would depend on the scale of future weather events.
Mr Attenborough said another temporary bailey bridge will be installed in the next two weeks from November 30, depending on weather and "required approvals".
Construction of a permanent replacement bridge is expected to begin in early 2024.
'This was totally preventable'
Byron Dixon runs his landscaping business out of a Veitch Street property, where he stores all maintenance tools, vehicles, machinery and a greenhouse full of plants.
In the November 29 floods, a shipping container full of garden maintenance tools was lifted and dragged 20 metres. Water inundated his greenhouse and toppled over plants, turning them into a pile of plastic pots and soil.
The flood echoed the disastrous December 2021 flood, where he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including four vehicles.
On Thursday morning, Mr Dixon was in a stand-off with council workers as they began laying down gravel.
He said the culverts crumbled even more as gravel and rocks were piled onto the bridge.
"Their solution is completely wrong," he said, "Whilst I understand residents need to get in and out, [they are] damming the creek, reducing the capacity of water flow by 75 to 80 per cent".
The workers told Mr Dixon the culverts were still operational and water would continue to run through.
"Look at them - they're crushed and crumbled. When they were working, four couldn't handle the torrent, so how is this going to handle another onslaught?"
He argues that the council's temporary approach to fixing the bridge will only cause properties including his and Ms Gibson's to flood even more.
At about 5pm on Wednesday, a heavy downpour raised the creek's water level. On the western side, the water was one metre higher than on water on the eastern side.
"We've not had any requests with respect to access, but have had to inform one or two individuals that it is not safe to cross the damaged section," Mr Attenborough said.
Mr Dixon was disheartened that the council was "prepared to take the risk" of creating a temporary solution while weather is still unpredictable and more rain is forecasted.
"Previously, [the creek] had siltation to halfway up the culverts." Mr Dixon said the build-up of silt, debris and dead branches all led to the destruction of the bridge on Wednesday.
Mr Dixon said he spoke to an acting manager from the council before work began on Thursday.
"I asked him whether he was willing to risk my property, my business, six employees' wages on it not raining, and he said 'we have to take that risk'."
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting up to 25mm of rain on December 2 and 9mm on December 3.
"This has got severe ramifications for not only our properties here but properties upstream.
"It was totally preventable."
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