Ex-Southlanders take shelter through storm

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 14:08 29/01/2013
Matt Peterson and Kris Ansell
Southlanders Matt Peterson and Kris Ansell who now live in Boyne Island had to evacuate their homes because of flooding.

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A group of former Southland residents survived a night in their cars sheltering from an ex-tropical cyclone battering the east coast of Australia after the roads to an emergency shelter were cut off by flood waters. 

Former Invercargill resident Kris Ansell, speaking from Boyne Island, just south of the port city of Gladstone, said he and fellow Southlander Matt Peterson along with Mr Peterson's family were forced to evacuate their homes in Boyne Island during the very early hours of Sunday morning.

The Southlanders found themselves in the path of ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald. Queensland police and emergency service workers ordered a mandatory evacuation when Lake Awoonga - the main water supply for the Gladstone region - broke, Mr Ansell said.

However, when the Southlanders tried to make it to an emergency evacuation shelter, they were cut off by flood waters.

''We couldn't get through to the shelter and we couldn't really go back so we found high ground and spent the night trying to sleep in our cars,'' he said.

''There were 11 of us, all from Invercargill and Gore, in three cars, including Matt's kids.''

Despite the heavy rain and strong winds, everyone remained calm and did their best to look after the kids, Mr Ansell said.

The water levels receded during the night and since Sunday the Boyne Island community had been cleaning up.

''The whole street just got stuck in and out of the disaster their has been an amazing spirit in the community,'' he said.

''I didn't realise there were so many kiwis here until we all met cleaning up.''

The water damage to homes and flooded cars were some of the more serious damage, Mr Ansell said.

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