Lismore residents have returned to a deluge of rubbish and muck as the clean-up begins in earnest throughout the flood-stricken northern NSW town.
Mayor Isaac Smith says about 3000 homes and businesses in the town centre have been damaged by floodwaters, which reached near-record levels.
“It’s pretty devastating to see piles of rubbish above your head and 10 to 20 metres wide. It’s heartbreaking,” he told AAP on Monday.
The Rural Fire Service has set up a base camp for hundreds of workers, including nearly 400 SES volunteers, who’ll work on the clean-up.
“It’s a massive job. It will take a lot of co-ordination and, really, things we haven’t done on this scale before,” Mr Smith said.
Food trucks and petrol tankers have started bringing in supplies after the roads were cut for days.
The Wilsons River, which flows through the town, peaked at 11.6 metres on Friday – its highest since 1974.
The deluge began at 4am that morning when a siren was sounded for the first time in 12 years as heavy rain from ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie moved in and caused the levee to break its bank.
Mr Smith said the mood in Lismore remains positive despite a few reports of minor looting.
“Most things are flood affected anyway, so there’s not much worth stealing,” he said.
“The town is coming together.”
But there are some outstanding dangers, like the risks posed by contaminated water.
The town’s sewerage network is expected to return to operation on Monday.
Meanwhile, residents further north in Murwillumbah are also coming to terms with flood damage as their mop-up continues.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will visit Lismore and Murwillumbah on Monday.