The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to first responders helping communities deal with “truly horrendous” flooding in Australia.
William heard first-hand about the impact of the floods which have devastated areas in and around New South Wales during a call with members of the emergency services and community leaders on Thursday.
The duke expressed shock at the extent of the flooding, saying: “It’s just incredible the amount of water you guys must have put up with.”
The local State Emergency Services’ commander Ashley Slapp, who conducted more than 150 rescue missions in late February alone, said: “The team was phenomenally good. They worked while their own houses were going underwater.
“I asked them to stop on day four or five and said to them they needed a rest day, and their answer was ‘I can’t stop, I’ll think about what I’ve lost’. So they kept going for the full eight days themselves.”
William also heard from Jeanette Wilkins, a headteacher of a local primary school badly hit by the floods, who told him: “We’ve lost our school and everything in it.
“For us, the most important thing was to make contact with our families and our children, and as fast as possible to set up a school somewhere just to get the children back to some form of normality and start dealing with their trauma.
“We did that within three weeks of the flood and since then it’s just about working with the children and the trauma they’ve been through. We’re two months down the track and nothing has changed, those 34 families are still displaced so there’s no certainty for those children.”
After hearing their testimonies, William said: “You’ve all painted a picture of the scale of these floods, truly horrendous and really quite startling.
“All of you are doing a fantastic job in your communities. Whether it’s your business, your school, your community or in the emergency services, you’re all doing a brilliant job of being those figureheads and those leaders which your community sadly needs right now. But on top of that make sure you look after yourselves.”
He said: “It’s hollow words from sat here in the United Kingdom but thank you and well done for everything you did.”
This year’s flooding in Australia is considered to be the worst since 2011.