Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 4 Issue 1 (March 1996), Pages 1-53

Enhancing Disaster Planning and Management: The 1990 Nyngan Flood in Australia (pages 32-38)

Crises have been characterized as situations of extreme collective stress which exhibit the ‘prompt overloading of communication channels, the massive invasion of volunteers on the scene of the crisis, the spreading of rumours, the seemingly irrational aversion of the population to smoothly organized professional relief and immediate allegations concerning who is to be blamed and who is taking advantage of the emergency situation’(Rosenthal, Hart‘t and Charles, 1989: 16). All of these phases, elements and characteristics were present to some degree when, on 23 April 1990, the Bogan River broke through the Nyngan levee in western New South Wales, Australia, and caused damage estimated at AUD$50 million.

Floods occur occasionally in most Australian rivers. The main cause is excessive rainfall but flooding is exacerbated by clearing catchment areas or by blocking or obstructing water courses. In 1819, Governor Macquarie chastised new settlers for their ‘willful and wayward habits of placing their residences within the reach of floods, and in putting at defiance that impetuous element which it is not for man to contend with’(quoted in Higgins and Robinson, 1981). Given the history and frequency of major flooding in Australia (Douglas, 1979), it is reasonable to question why these natural hazards have the routine tendency to become disasters of varying degrees of severity (Jarman and Kouzmin, 1991).

This paper looks at the flooding of Nyngan in 1990 and examines events as they relate to existing and extended models of disaster management and decision‐making.

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