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Australia floods: Baby trapped for 24 hours saved moments before choking on mud

The infant, who had been thrown from its parents during the landslide, was discovered by ex-Ninja Warrior contestant Lisa Parkes just moments before swallowing mud and passing out.

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By Bethany Minelle, Sky News
Published: SAT 12 March 2022 15:43, GMT

A baby was pulled from the mud and resuscitated by a former Australian Ninja Warrior contestant, more than 24 hours after the catastrophic flooding that has ravaged New South Wales, it has emerged.

Obstacle racer Lisa Parkes told the Australian weekly newspaper The Saturday Paper that she then resuscitated the infant in front of its trapped parents, who were both buried up to their necks in mud.

A national emergency was declared after at least 22 people died and tens of thousands had to evacuate their homes after flooding along the east coast of Australia, caused by heavy rains.

Ms Parkes, a mother of three, was part of a team of hikers and professional rock climbers searching for survivors in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

They were searching along the Upper Main Arm Valley, about 15 miles (25km) northwest of Mullumbimby and about 40 miles (70km) north of Lismore, where landslides had swept away homes, flooding the area with mud and trees.

Ms Parkes said: “There is no road, it is just a river. I was walking in waist-deep water for most of the day.”

Despite being told everyone had been accounted for, she said, her “sixth sense” told her something was wrong.

“I could hear a baby crying,” she said. “And I’m a mum and I said to the person I was with, ‘Look, I’m not really happy with leaving just yet.’ I could see a house and a landslide up really quite high.”

After trekking up through the bush beside the landslide and roping herself to a tree, she was able to descend back down towards the house, following the infant’s cries.

She told on: “I could see a baby lying on top of the mud and about 30 metres or 50 metres away the parents, the mum and dad, were buried almost neck deep in the mud and they had been there for more than 24 hours.

“The baby must have been at that age, about eight months, and, it was impeccable timing, because it tried to roll over and had caught mud in its mouth and became unconscious.”

With both parents trapped and unable to move their arms, she said they were completely powerless to act.
Ms Parkes explained: “I had to clear its airways and resuscitate that baby in the middle of a landslide while hanging from a rope, which I did.”

With emergency help on its way, Ms Parkes then dug out the parents, to reunite them with their baby.

“It must have been, for them, the most horrific thing ever having their child in front of them but not being able to hold on to them,” she said.

The family was flown to Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, and are understood to have made a full recovery.

Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes. 📷 Sky News

There has been criticism of the Australian government’s handling of the disaster, with many victims angry that authorities did not come to their aid earlier.

Some areas endured the highest floods ever recorded and tens of thousands of people had to leave their homes.
While the army stepped in to assist, many felt that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was slow to act, offering too little help too late and forcing people to cope with the disaster alone.

The effect of the heavy rain was made worse by bushfires two years ago, which had destroyed many areas of rainforest, leaving the land bare and vulnerable to flooding.

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