Newell residents provide shelter to stranded tourists

EXTREME WEATHER

Victoria Stone-Meadows

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THANKFUL: Melissa Haller and Matthew Seale back at their hotel in Port Douglas after spending an unexpected night in Newell. Image: Supplied.
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A Sydney couple has been blown away by the kindness of Douglas Shire locals after they were caught up in the flooding over the weekend.

Melissa Haller and Matthew Seale had travelled from Sydney to Port Douglas on Friday to use a voucher for Jungle Surfing Ms Haller had received for her birthday.

They went up to the Daintree early on the Saturday morning and had a wonderful time at their jungle adventure.

However, they were unaware the steady and constant rain had caused the Daintree and Mossman Rivers to swell and flood.

They left the Jungle Surfing at about 12.30pm, hoping to make it back to their hotel in Port Douglas and change into some dry clothes.

“At about 1.30pm, we came across the Mossman Road (Foxton Avenue) closure and because we are from Sydney, we weren’t sure what to do,” Ms Haller said.

“We thought we would just wait it out so we drove around and found the only food place open.” 


They landed at the Newell Beach Take Away Shop where they ate some food and received friendly advice from the shop owners Pete Capp and Lisa Scomazzon.

“We went inside and had an amazing feed and spoke to the owners,” Ms Haller said.

“They gave us some good advice about the flood so we took a seat and tried to wait for the flood to go down on low tide.

“The tide didn’t go down and by this time there were heaps of people stuck in their shop.”

While the official closing time of the Newell Beach Take Away Shop is 8.30pm, Mr Capp and Ms Scmoazzon weren’t about to kick anyone out into the rain.

“They stayed open purely to give everyone shelter,” Ms Haller said.

“They invited Matthew and I into their house and offered us a bed, they had one other spare room to which they offered to a family with two young kids.

“There was about another 20 people left in the shop after they found accommodation for some of the people.”


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Ms Scomazzon then reached out the local community and found a number of mattresses and sleeping bags and allowed about 12 people sleep in the shop.

 

Members of the community rallied to the cause and came to the aid of the stranded people with mattresses, blankets, and pillows.

Mr Capp said there was no question that the stranded travellers would have a space in the shop.

“There were 80 people here at one stage,” he said.

“Most of them couldn’t understand and they all said the some thing that in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, no one would open their home to people.

“But, at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to leave anyone out on the street.”

While some of the people were able to find accommodation for themselves, Mr Capp and Ms Scomazzon ended up housing Ms Haller and Mr Seale, as well as a family with two young boys, in their own home for the night.

Ms Haller said she is so grateful for the hospitality and help from the shop-owners it cemented the couple’s decision to return to the area.

“Without their help we would have had to sleep in the car,” Ms Haller said.

“Due to this experience we will be back to Port Douglas, these are amazing people helping out in the community and looked after so many complete strangers. It’s something I will never forget. They are heroes.”

Mr Capp said his only thought was to give as many people as possible a dry place to sleep and even refused to take payment when offered by some of the guests.

“I don’t want any money, it’s not what it is about,” he said.

“I just told everyone to go back to where they had come from and to let us know they got through alright, that’s all we wanted.” 

 

 

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