NSW village ‘like war zone’ after bushfire
Eight weeks after a devastating bushfire tore through the NSW village of Rappville and the surrounding areas, people are still living in burnt-out cars and homes, with some families struggling to access water.
The village south of Casino was one of the first affected by the unprecedented bushfires that have swept across the state in recent weeks.
The blaze at Rappville claimed two lives and destroyed 40 homes.
Local resident Connie Scholl says the bushfire left scars people will have to deal with forever.
Since October 8 – the day of the fire – many locals have kept their bags packed, ready to flee, as they fear nearby blazes could come their way again.
“We still feel under threat, we’re still stressed,” Ms Scholl told AAP.
An occasional shower of embers raining down on them is a constant reminder that things can change quickly.
The home she shares with her husband and five sons in Wyan was saved but others weren’t so lucky.
“It looks like a war zone. I think there’s a community here that’s suffering PTSD. The overall feeling for everybody as they come home is just horror or sadness,” Ms Scholl said.
“Some people just aren’t able to get back up. There are elderly people here who won’t rebuild because they don’t have the funds.”
Ms Scholl estimates it will be at least five years before her community comes close to experiencing normality again.
And yet, just eight weeks on, she says they feel like they’ve been forgotten.
“I know of one man, he’s actually not well, sick with cancer, and he’s living in the burnt-out shell of a 4WD with a half cabin,” she said.
Another man is living in a burnt-out shipping container.
Ms Scholl knows three families with children who have no access to water.
“This is not a Third World country,” she said.
“I know one family that’s bathing in a trough. Literally, it took just an hour-and-a-half to rip everything apart.”
One young couple is living in a tent with their son. After a few cooler nights, the mother sought out pyjamas for her family.
“(She was) told, ‘No, you’ve had your quota’. She said you just feel dirty for asking.
“We’re holding each other’s hands, we’re doing everything we possibly can, but whatever they get in disaster payments – if they get any – it’s going on big items and they’ve still got no money for groceries and water.”
Insurance won’t cover the real-life cost of rebuilding for many, Ms Scholl said.
Some who have tried to access disaster relief funding have found the process “overwhelming”.
Farmers are faced with starving cattle, decimated grazing paddocks, and destroyed fences.
“People are on their knees,” the local woman said.
“We need a hand here. We need a lot of help.”
Water and solar batteries for power are at the top of the list.
“Would you like to see your loved ones living like this?” Ms Scholl said.
“There are so many implications from these fires. It’s endless.”