Two months ago, floodwater rapidly surrounded Ann Biasol’s home and she feared she would lose her three beloved horses.

Key points:

  • A woman and her three horses rescued during the March NSW floods are doing well
  • There are now plans to create a large animal evacuation centre to help in future emergencies
  • Many residents in the region are still cleaning and rebuilding, some yet to return home

She was also at risk.

Life is yet to return to normal- Ms Biasol hasn’t yet moved back into her flood-ravaged home  — but her horses are alive and thriving and she feels very lucky.

She says she owes her animals’ survival to locals, who came to her rescue after she received word the State Emergency Service couldn’t reach her property, south of Crescent Head on the New South Wales Mid North Coast.

Phillip Aitkin launched a boat, and with the help of  another local horseman Leon Gray, the animals were walked and swum to higher ground. 

A cream and sky blue weatherboard is submerged in floodwaters.

Water surrounded Ann Biasol’s home along Maria River Road near Crescent Head.(

Supplied: Ann Biasol

)

Horses nearly submerged in floodwaters.

The horses were caught in rapidly rising floodwater.(

Supplied: Ann Biasol

)

The view from the front of a boat, looking over floodwater and submerged fence lines.

A boat was launched on a main road to rescue Ann and her horses during the March floods.(

Supplied: Ann Biasol

)

A bearded man in a hat atop a horse in floodwaters looks at the camera. Two other men on horses are ahead.

Leon Gray saved many animals caught in the flood which caught many property owners by surprise.(

Supplied: Leon Gray

)

Ms Biasol said it was an experience she wouldn’t forget.

“There were a lot of challenges,” she said.

“One more day and my horses would have drowned, so I was extremely lucky.”

A topless man, wearing a cap, rides a grey horse in floodwaters while holding another, one horse follows.

Leon Gray guides the tired horses to higher ground.(

Supplied: Ann Biasol

)

Road to recovery

A man stands between three horses in a paddock.

Ann’s horses are thriving again after receiving intensive daily care since the floods.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

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Ms Biasol’s horses suffered severe skin injuries due to prolonged exposure to the floodwater, but after intensive daily treatment and medication they are back in good health.

“They had a lot of skin sloughing on their bodies. These horses were in the water for five days and right up to the waist and higher,” she said.

“Basically the treatment the vet put into play was like a burns victim treatment.”

A woman stands in a paddock smiling with a horse in the background.

Ann Biasol hopes to help other livestock owners in future emergencies by establishing a large animal evacuation centre.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

)

It’s been nine weeks and Ms Biasol is waiting for running water to be restored before she moves back into her home.

She said the lack of water meant a lot of the clean-up was still on hold.

A pile of rubbish on the ground with a barn in the background.

Ann Biasol is yet to moved back into her home, with no running water and much still to clean up.

“So at the moment I am going through photo albums and things which were just flooded.”

Hopes of reducing livestock losses in future floods

Cows standing in a flooded river.

A lot of livestock was lost during the March floods on the NSW Mid North Coast.(

Supplied: Ann Biasol

)

Ms Biasol’s horses are at a temporary home on Mr Aitkin’s nearby property on higher ground.

Mr Aitkin and Ms Biasol plan to create a livestock evacuation centre there, for future emergencies. 

“I rang so many people to try and find a place for the horses [during the flood] and it was almost impossible,” she said.

A young man stands in a paddock looking into the distance.

Phillip Aitkin helped rescue Ann and her horses and now is working to build a livestock evacuation centre.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

)

Mr Aitkin said many animals died during the March floods and he hoped the evacuation centre would help reduce livestock losses in the future.

“It’s probably going to be about a 12-month turnaround at least. We need fencing, stables and to redo the grass into some decent feed for horses and cattle,” he said.

‘I’m relying on a neighbour’

Harold

Harold Markham says life has been tough since the floods and their property is still water-logged.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

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Mr Aitkin has also helped other flood-affected locals, including 70-year-old Harold Markham, who lives along a dirt road south of Crescent Head.

Mr Aitkin has delivered hay, donated by the Uniting Church, to Mr Markham’s still water-logged property.

A horse stands in the mud next to a fence.

Mud and water are still a feature at Harold Markham’s property south of Crescent Head.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

)

“The first few days when the floods were on, blokes came in canoes and brought us food.

“They came over the top of the fences, and there’s been a couple of deliveries since then.

“I have a mobile cabin which went under water and I am staying in a caravan at the moment and it’s alright in the caravan.”

Mr Markham and his brother also lost their trucks and cars in the flood and remain without transport.

Two older men unloading hay bales using a tractor.

Phillip Aitkin has been delivering donated hay to residents in need, including Harold Markham and his brother.

He said the flood was the latest in a string of personal challenges.

“I had a stroke the Christmas before last, and a heart attack, so this is on top of it,” he said.

‘This is my home’

A woman with dark hair smiles, standing inside her home.

Ursula Butlin lives by the river on Port Macquarie’s North Shore and is still cleaning up.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

)

A little further down the road, help has also been extended to Port Macquarie’s North Shore community.

Residents there were isolated for days during floods, with no way of crossing the Hastings River.

North Shore resident Ursula Butlin is continuing to clean up her property.

She said mould was a big issue.

“Because if I stay in the hotel who going to pay for it?

“It’s so hard because sometimes it’s so painful, your throat is always painful.”

Despite the challenges, Ms Butlin said she had no plans to move.

A woman stands looking out across a river.

Ursula Butlin says she has no plans to move from her riverside home.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian

)

“My kids were born here and grew up here so this is my home.”

‘One more day, my horses would have drowned’: Happy ending after heroic flood rescue
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