Trouble in Paradise as Australian restaurateur faces floods in disaster year

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Restaurateur Darren Osmotherly, whose riverfront cafe was inundated by floodwater this week, said that in a year of disasters, it’s the support of his community in north-west Sydney that will carry him through.

Days of torrential rain have sparked flash floods in New South Wales and Queensland, resulting in the evacuation of 40,000 people as well as two fatalities.

For Osmotherly, and the region, it has been one punch after another, with COVID-19 keeping tourists away, following Australia’s horrendous 2019-2020 bushfire season.

“We’ve had bushfires and COVID and so many dramas this year. No one can go anywhere,” Osmotherly told Reuters, surveying waters from the Hawkesbury River lapping near the roof line of his Paradise cafe.

“This is where people go for their holiday,” he said. “They can’t go away so, particularly this year more than any other year (people) need a getaway, they need a break. This is so sad to see it like this.”

The return of sunny skies on Wednesday allowed a massive clean-up to begin, with emergency supplies flown in over swamped roads. But the danger was not over, Osmotherly said.

“People get the illusion that it’s stopped flooding but you’ve got seventeen hours of water to come,” he said.

“The deluge of rain we had yesterday isn’t here yet ... Got to be careful. When the sun’s out like this it’s probably just as dangerous as when it’s running fast.”

Damage to the cafe that Osmotherly has managed for 15 years is likely to top A$500,000 ($380,000).

He will need to replace fridges, deep fryers, pizza ovens, and bar equipment. Reopening will take months, Osmotherly estimated, but he will at least be able to employ some of his 20 staff in the clean-up.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort to rebuild,” he said.

“Lucky we’ve got some good supporters and friends and customers of ours that want to pitch in and help.”

Reporting by Jill Gralow; Writing by Melanie Burton; Editing by Giles Elgood