A pink bouquet and balloons sit in the heart of a small coastal Western Australia town, where locals are still reeling from the “amazing” rescue of Cleo Smith.
The four-year-old’s home town of Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, is celebrating after she was found early Wednesday morning following a frantic 18-day search.
Leticia Andreoli said her son, who is a schoolmate of Cleo, didn’t understand at first that his little friend had been found.
“It took him a while to get it,” she said.
“He said ‘no Cleo is lost.’ I said ‘no bub, she’s been found, so you can give her a big hug when you see her.’”
Another local, Naomi Knoll, said “everyone in town is so happy”.
“It’s a happy day. It’s a good day for Carnarvon,” she said.
Some businesses were giving out free coffee and cakes to help spread the joy.
Shire President Eddie Smith said the events felt like a film.
“You see this in the movies, you don’t see this in Carnarvon,” he said.
“But the way the community has come together and conducted themselves has been wonderful.”
READ MORE: Police detail how Cleo Smith was rescued.
Little signs of the relief people are feeling over Cleo’s safe return to her family are everywhere.
Facebook group “Bring Cleo Home”, started by 10 mums, has grown to more than 65 thousand members worldwide.
Today it was flooded with messages such as “The country cried with you this morning Ellie and Jake”, “Safe in your Mummy’s arms, I bet she won’t ever let go of you”, and “Welcome home princess”.
Signwriter Jace Kempton was able to make a new sign today, welcoming Cleo home.
He printed more than 15,000 “Find Cleo” bumper stickers and signs at his factory as the 18-day search continued.
“The word got around quick and I hope that was part of the outcome,” a “very relieved” Mr Kempton said.
Church of Christ Carnarvon pastor Brendon Law-Davis said it was “a great day to celebrate.”
Up the road from Carnarvon at the Wooramel Roadhouse, a previously sad poster now has a poignant message.
It reads “missing child — found”.
CLEO SMITH FOUND: WHAT WE KNOW
- At 12.46am (AWST) overnight, police broke into a locked home in Carnarvon, Western Australia, where four-year-old Cleo Smith was found alive and well.
- A 36-year-old man was found not far from the home, and has been taken into custody. He is assisting police with inquiries.
- Police have said the man has no connection with Cleo Smith’s family.
- Investigators were acting on information received that night, but it has not been disclosed yet what led them to that address.
- Cleo has been reunited with her family.