Clive Palmer, hero
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