THE FLOOD AT MAITLAND.
(From Illustrated Sydney News 16 July 1864 p.4)
The tendency of the Hunter River to overflow its banks has always been a source of anxiety to the residents in its vicinity. Three times during the current year have they suffered from those visitations, the most disastrous being that of the 14th; 15th, and 16th of June, which, though not so high as some of its predecessors, has been productive of more destruction of property and loss of life. During the night of the 13th. the river overflowed its banks in the rear of Mr. Sawyer’s, and rose steadily until Wednesday morning, carrying away the dykes which had been thrown up to stop its progress. During Tuesday the river continued to rise, the back-water increasing considerably and covering the cultivated lands on all sides, the tops of the telegraph posts being the only things visible between the bridge and the hills bordering South Park and Dagworth. The Long bridge was covered; the waters spread over the Horse-shoe bend ; and in the lower part of the town almost every house was partially filled,-nearly three hundred tenements were rendered untenantable, and the inhabitants compelled to seek safety on higher ground. The openings in the Railway being insufficient to carry off the water, a portion of the embankment was washed away and the approaches to the bridges rendered unsafe; the trains ceased running, thus for some time stopping communication between East and West Maitland. A dealer named Goodman was drowned near the Black Horse Inn, his body was found some days after in Duncan-lane, East Maitland. The scene in High-street will long be rememberd :-a perfect sea of water forced its way landwards from the river; the majority of the houses were inundated, household furniture, dead, cattle, and farm stock floated about in all directions; and during Wednesday great anxiety prevailed, many persons being compelled to take refuge in the upper portion of their dwellings. About midnight the water reached its highest point, being then twenty-six feet above the usual high-water level, and within two inches of the February flood. About four o’clock on Thursday morning, two houses built on the edge of the river, opposite Hall’s store, gave way, and fell backwards into the river, bearing with them the occupants of one – a man named Fairfield, his Wife, and three children,- and a Mrs. Robinson ; Mr. and Mrs Boyle, who resided in the other, escaped by jumping landwards from the balcony. They succeeded in wading through the stream to Mr Mullens,’ and gave the alarm. Several persons were attracted by the screams of the unfortunate people, who were struggling amidst the rapid waters; search was made along the course of the back-water, but no traces of them could be discovered. About 7 o’clock, next morning, Mr. Fairfield and two children were discovered alive on Cohen’s Island by the boat of the Morpeth steamer; the bodies of Mrs. Fairfield and Mrs. Robinson were found next day on the Flat, partially covered by a heap of dèbris; and the body of Sophia Fairfield was picked up in a paddock close to the Railway. During Thursday the river fell about eighteen inches, and gradually contracted to its usual dimensions, leaving a thick layer of mud over the whole of the ground that had been inundated. Since the subsidence of the waters the river’s bank has given way in several places. During the morning of the 26th an extensive landslip took place near High-street, carrying with it portions of Cohen’s and four other stores, and rendered the position of several others very precarious. The amount of destitution occasioned by the flood is fearful to contemplate; numbers were driven from their homes, their effects swept away, and many families left entirely dependent upon the charity of their neighbours. Prompt measures have since been taken to relieve their distress; meetings have been held in Sydney and in the country districts, subscription-lists have been opened, and efforts are being made in some measure to compensate the sufferers for the losses they have sustained.
Digitised from the Microfilm by Gionni Di Gravio.
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