Clive Palmer, hero

Townsville Bulletin - - Voice Of The North - opin­ion Stephen Gun­thorpe, Kelso

IT is some time since the Lock­yer Val­ley floods but here is an ac­count from some­one who was there.

It cer­tainly was a time of con­fu­sion and ter­ror. My wife and I were camped at the Heli­don rest area for the night. A change in the creek’s de­meanour prompted a closer look. This creek was telling all who cared to take the time to lis­ten ‘‘ get the hell out of the way’’, which is what we at­tempted to do. We drove out of the carpark avoid­ing all the sight­seers.

The fire brigade came speed­ing down the hill go­ing to­wards Post­mans Ridge. Its de­clared state of emer­gency sig­nalled that the op­er­a­tors knew about the wall of wa­ter com­ing down the Lock­yer Creek. At this time a sin­gle phone call, from some­one who un­der­stood lo­cal ge­og­ra­phy, to Gran­tham could have alerted res­i­dents to flee.

It would ap­pear that no such lo­cal knowl­edge was present and a lot of peo­ple died need­lessly as a re­sult. We drove through the cross­ing at Post­mans Ridge, just get­ting through as the road closed be­hind us. We drove up to the high­est patch of road and prayed the river came no higher.

At this stage the Lock­yer Creek looked like the Bur­dekin in flood, a swirling mass of wa­ter 600m wide, smash­ing gum trees off and car­ry­ing bits and pieces of homes down the river. Bi­cy­cle hel­mets come float­ing past, wa­ter tanks, eskies and dozens of drums.

In an hour and a half it was all over. Peo­ple died at Mur­phys Creek. With­cott , Post­mans Ridge and the town of Gran­tham all were hit by a wall of wa­ter. The carpark at Heli­don was gone, the red brick toi­let block sheared off at the ground, not a trace of it to be seen.

The wa­ter treat­ment plant sheared off at ground level. A spurt of clean treated wa­ter shoot­ing 18m up in the air in con­trast to the muddy swollen sed­i­ment that once was the Heli­don carpark.

We saw only one red gov­ern­ment chop­per – he had the lit­tle boy who lost his mum and brother in Toowoomba. The lit­tle fel­low was in a state of s hock, his an­kles crudely wrapped and bleed­ing. The chop­per was there, then gone. I heard the op­er­a­tor say he had an­other job. The lit­tle fel­low was left with the sole po­lice­man who took him away.

The real hero of the day was our own Clive Palmer, whose per­sonal blue chop­per was re­ally the only one do­ing any worth­while life sav­ing work. He lost so many of his horses. In­stead of sav­ing his rac­ing live­stock, he used his chop­per to save peo­ple. In all about 60 peo­ple were taken to safety by the blue Palmer chop­per. If it was not for him the death toll could have been dou­bled.

The loss of lives in Gran­tham should be the sub­ject of a royal com­mis­sion. We drove through Gran­tham some hours be­fore it was washed away. We were never able to go there again as po­lice had cor­doned off the area in re­spect to the dozens of dead and miss­ing per­sons. It was a sad re­flec­tion to see the al­most to­tal lack of per­for­mance by authorities.

Not­with­stand­ing Oakey is 100km away, it was al­most three days be­fore a sin­gle mil­i­tary chop­per was vis­i­ble. As soon as Bris­bane was threat­ened by floods most SES were pulled out of the val­ley.

As for us, my wife and I, we spent the next three days perched up on top of a hill, a lo­cal truckie telling us we were safe there. He had lost ev­ery­thing at Post­mans Ridge.

I ask the ques­tions: ‘‘ Why were there no chop­pers from Oakey in the sky? Why did peo­ple have to die when these life sav­ing in­stru­ments were sitting on the ground?’’ Could it be as sim­ple as the CO not hav­ing the au­thor­ity?

Thank you Clive Palmer – and to our state ad­min­is­tra­tors ( not the lo­cal SES work­ers) I say – go back to sleep.

GRIM SEARCH: The army at Post­mans Ridge, Gat­ton

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