Listen: Katrina Roe chats to the CEO of Townsville’s Christian radio station Phillip Rentsch. Above: Defence forces stationed in Townsville are moving people to safety. Picture: 4th Regiment, Facebook
As the North Queensland city of Townsville suffers the deluge of a one-in-100-year flood, and mass evacuations of thousands of homes, the local Christian radio station has been working around the clock to keep the community informed and encouraged.
Hope 103.2’s ‘sister station’ in Townsville, Live FM, has rostered announcers on shifts throughout the night to update listeners about rainfalls, advancing flood waters, and safety information from local authorities.
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CEO Phillip Rentsch told Katrina Roe that while residents had a lot of warning, some had been slow to evacuate and had needed to be rescued.
“Last night this deluge came down in the catchment areas which caused the dam gates to automatically open around 8.30 last night,” he said. “People had lots of warning, the city council has done an absolutely remarkable job in getting communication out there, but unfortunately some residents have been slow to respond and have got caught.
“11 o’clock this morning will be the peak as the high tide plays into it. The effects of that will remain until midnight tonight. So certainly not the worst of it behind us yet…Thousands of homes are inundated with water,” he said.
Mr Rentsch said the sixth evacuation site had just opened in the city and authorities are working to get people living in suburbs along the swollen Ross River, to safety.
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Live FM has played an important role in keeping listeners community informed.
“Community radio is one of the key aspects in reaching out and giving a sense of hope and the latest updates,” he said. We’re high and dry where the station is so we’ve been broadcasting through the weekend giving updates. We had teams working right through the night.”
The radio station is also using Facebook to help the local Christian community stay in touch, sharing news about evacuation centres, volunteering roles, cancelled church services, and facilitating practical support between residents. One woman, Ange Coyler, used the station’s Facebook page to post a request asking if someone could check on her mother, and it wasn’t long before someone had answered the call.
“It’s a very resilient city and people gather around one another really well in times like these.”
Mr Rentsch said prayers for the city are “always welcome”, and he expects the people of Townsville will support one another well.
“It’s a very resilient city and people gather around one another really well in times like these, [with] the cyclones and other major weather events that come through,” he said. “This kind of thing is not something the Townsville community is unfamiliar with, but it’s something we haven’t seen before to this extent.”