Kiwis deliver aid as supplies run low

IMOGEN NEALE
Last updated 12:47 14/01/2011

Footage from the New Zealand Civil Defence volunteers at work on Queensland flood recovery.

Brisbane Flooded
Reuters Zoom
Debris floats near a house submerged by flood waters west of Brisbane.

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A team of Kiwi volunteers have described the grim conditions facing flooded Queensland as they work to deliver essential aid.

The 15-strong volunteer team have been delivering milk and potatoes to isolated Queenslanders.

They were today given a reminder to keep an eye out for snakes after a potentially deadly close encounter.

The 15-member team were quickly ushered clear from danger when a highly venomous brown snake appeared as they headed to Dalby, the latest stop on their relief assignment.

Meanwhile, evacuation centre authorities in Brisbane's isolated suburbs have been forced to defend strict rationing provisions.

The death toll from the south-east Queensland floods disaster stands at 16. Authorities hold grave fears for 12 people - 11 of them missing from the Lockyer Valley community of Murphys Creek, and most of those 11 from just two families.

Yesterday afternoon the NZ Civil Defence team drove 46 kilometres east from Miles to Chinchilla where they found vehicles, including a petrol tanker, floating in the streets.

Volunteer team leader Shane Briggs said "the river in the town is normally 10 to 20 metres wide - it's kilometres wide now."

"We took flood boats down some of the streets. We left our four-wheel-drives behind, there was no way we could take them with us."

The team transferred their gear from cars to boats and made several trips, ferrying it across the flooded river.

They took milk and potatoes with them for locals who'd been cut-off for days.

"There are still some locals in town, some dry areas, but nothing is getting in," he said.

"There were babies with no milk so we left the milk with them."

He said hygiene is a big issue and health warnings are "all over TV".

"Gastroenteritis is something they're concerned about. They don't have a lot of medical staff and in some places there are no doctors or nurses."

From Chinchilla the team drove 82km east in a borrowed bus to Dalby, the hometown of former Warriors captain Steve Price.

Briggs said the drive normally takes 30 minutes but surface water and back road detours meant the trip took two hours and they arrived at their new base, a Dalby mining camp, in the dark.

"From what we understand there's no bread and no milk in town anymore, so people are getting low on a number of supplies - as a lot of towns are."

"Today's task is a little different [we're] in a much bigger town. No one has been able to get in here."

"About 6,000 people live here but they've only had 20 or so people helping."

"This morning we will go and try to visit every area. See who needs help, then co-ordinate who needs help where."

The team, from around New Zealand, arrived in Condamine on Saturday and had been helping with the emergency response.

They were evacuated from the small mining town 400km southwest of Brisbane on Monday.

"The presence of the New Zealand team members in the town has had an extremely positive impact on residents," Briggs said.

"We feel we're doing what we've trained for and this has really boosted morale."

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It is the first time an entire New Zealand Civil Defence team has been deployed overseas.

The decision to send the team was made late week, when Prime Minister John Key called Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to offer assistance.

Last night Key announced New Zealand could provide a second team if needed.

Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management director John Hamilton said it was likely that a second team will be deployed to a different area "given the priorities set by the Queensland authorities and the difficulty moving around the state due to road closures".

- With NZPA

- Stuff

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