Victims of Toll Bar floods pass on their experiences

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THE experiences of Doncaster people who suffered during the floods four years ago are being transferred thousands of miles to Australia, where they are helping authorities plan how health services should respond to their country’s own devastating floods.

Following the summer 2007 deluge which swamped communities, including Toll Bar, under several feet of water, hundreds of those affected took part in surveys conducted by the Health Protection Agency to look at the short and longer term impacts on psychological health.

The study findings were seen by Australian health authorities, and are now being used to help them plan how to respond to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people affected by widespread flooding in Eastern Australia last December and January.

One of the authors, Dr Tony Baxter, Doncaster’s Director of Public Health, said: “No-one involved in the response to the 2007 floods will forget the trauma that these events caused to individuals, families and communities. Local and national organisations worked together at the time to give a huge amount of practical support and health and insurance advice.

“It is really heartening to know the experiences that local people shared with us at one of the most difficult times of their lives have been used to support others. It feels as if Doncaster people have reached to the other side of the world to give those in need a helping hand.”

Beverly Raphael, Professor of Population Mental Health and Disasters at the University of Western Sydney, said: “The results from the UK flooding research have been very timely. Assessing how flooding can affect the mental wellbeing of people, and what we can do to help, is clearly a priority at the moment. The UK research has given us some useful pointers as to how we can best help people affected by this disaster, and how we can prepare for and respond to other disasters in the future.”

Since the 2007 floods, Doncaster Council has been helping local people living in low-lying areas to be better prepared for any future flooding by developing a new community flood wardens scheme.

Council staff have also organised a flood exhibition with the help of people living in affected communities to help them make sense of what happened to them and so they could consider what actions to take if they have to deal with similar events.