On the weekend I met an elderly couple that lived to tell their story of survival after the ‘inland tsunami’ swept through their little town, Grantham.
Graham and Helen were having a normal day at the Grantham farm they were caretakers at… oblivious to the fact that half an hour earlier, a significant deluge of rain had fallen in Toowoomba (the mountain range behind Grantham) and had turned streets into raging rivers. This ‘inland tsunami’ was now racing time and plummeting relentlessly towards them. Tiny creeks became cascading huge rivers. Water poured down the range – the main highway up became a channel for the raging torrent.
A wall of water began coming through the creek behind Graham and Helen’s house… not down the creeks natural bed but ‘across’ it! Down, across and out straight for the home and farm sheds.
The couple are in there sixties. Helen has a bung knee and has trouble walking at the best of times. When they saw the water, they knew they needed to get out and ran as fast as physically possible to their car to try and drive away only to find themselves stuck with raging water all around them. They knew they had to get out of the car before it was completely indulged and they were drowned. Without even thinking about it they opened the ‘electric windows’ that where now completely under water and they miraculously opened! They climbed out their respective windows and balanced on the window ledge holding each other’s hands across the roof of the car as ‘waves’ of water plummeted them – sometimes completely going over their heads. As I said earlier, this couple are elderly and Helen has a really bad knee! They have no idea how they physically even managed to get themselves out of the window let alone stay standing, perched in such an awkward manner for so long.
Eventually, the waves of water were too strong and Helen and Graham were swept away – Helen, towards the growing mound of rubble that resembled parts of a shed. She was able to swim towards it and cling on for her life. Graham who is unable to swim, was swept away from the property in a different direction. His clothes were completely ripped from his body as he was thrown around in the water like a rag doll in a washing machine. Eventually, realising the waters were too powerful to even struggle against, he cried out to God and said he was ready to go home if he so willed. He then closed his eyes and lay on his back and floated… thinking this was his final moments. He said suddenly a peace just washed over him. The water seemed calmer around him and he opened his eyes to see he had floated right near the area his wife was! They were then able to cling to life together as they waited for the waters to subside.
My mum found out that this couple needed help and we went out on Saturday to see what we could do. A team of about 20 of us were asked to ‘search and rescue’ anything salvageable from their property. Two external walls of their house was completely ripped off! So the contents of their home are buried under thick layers of silt. They said when they were clinging to the rubble waiting for the waters to subside, their bed – still made and pillows in tack floated past them! Unbelievable hey!
Graham’s machinery shed was the same story. I thought they’d already cleaned it out… but no… everything (bar a car that was jack knifed between the wall and the slab) was gone! A caravan, tractors, vehicles, heavy machinery… you name it were completely washed out into the paddocks. The hydroponics set up that had recently cost $400G to set up – a mangulated mess. Truly this farm looked like a war zone. This epitomised every house and farm in the tiny community. Some residents didn’t get to live to tell their story.
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks hearing story after story of devastation and loss. The heartbreaking thing now is a massive Cyclone (bigger then ever recorded in history) is now threatening Cairns and the entire northern parts of Queensland. Pray… for God’s mercy!
Here’s a youtube video of the couple sharing a bit of this story at their church.
Also I posted some pictures on facebook here.