Weekend of death and destruction

A driver ignores warnings and drives through flood waters at Deep Creek at Gympie on Sunday.

By Donna Jones

A stationary storm, which dropped, in some cases, more than 650ml over the space of 24 hours from last Friday night across the region has had deadly consequences.

Livestock were washed away in the deluge that resulted from ex-tropical cyclone Seth, with farmers devastated they didn’t have the time to move their animals to higher ground.

The speed with which the water rose meant that numerous people had to be rescued from their vehicles with police revealing about 80 rescues were carried out across the region over the weekend.

A 22 year old Sunshine Coast man became the first victim when his utility was swept off the road on Cherry Tree Road, near the Bruce Highway at Kanigan at around 7.30pm on Friday night.

QPS and QFES swift water rescue teams located the man’s body inside his ute on Saturday morning.

A 52-year-old man went missing in flood waters near Tiaro early on Tuesday morning. His body was located later that same day at 11am approximately 200 metres from where he went missing.

Around 5.30am, police were called to a rural property on Darcys Road following reports the man had fallen from a boat into flood waters the previous evening.

A 43-year-old woman and an eight-year-old girl, who had also been in the boat, managed to cling to foliage after the boat capsized.

In the North West of the region, emergency workers were continuing the search (at the time of print) for a 14-year-old girl who went missing after the car she was a passenger in was swept off a flooded road near Booubyjan.

She and the driver, a man about 40, were reported as having escaped from the car, and the man was able to cling to a tree, but the girl was carried off by flood waters.

The man was taken to hospital in a stable condition.

Superintendent Michael Sawrey from Maryborough Police station said “significant resources“ had been allocated to find the girl and Police at that stage held “grave concerns“ for her safety but were “hopeful“.

He said 20 SES personnel, six police officers, volunteers, locals, people on trailbikes and horses and the swift water rescue teams would all be continuing the search.

In Goomeri, Police assisted staff from the Shell Service Station on Friday afternoon to cross the rapidly rising waters as it quickly surrounded then inundated the roadhouse.

In Wondai and Murgon, the SES had been broken into, with approximately nine chainsaws and various rescue equipment, including a Toyota Troop carrier, stolen during the height of the emergency on late Friday night.

SES groups in that area were responding to around 140 calls for help.

The vehicle was later recovered in Murgon, however the equipment is still missing.

Amazing stories of survival have emerged with reports a man and his young daughter survived for two nights clinging to a tree in the midst of floodwaters also at Booubyjan.

The RACQ Lifeflight rescue helicopter was sent to collect the pair on Sunday at 1pm after they made their way to a nearby property.

The man said his car was caught between two sections of flood waters on Friday night, and then began filling with water.

He and his primary school aged daughter climbed onto the roof of the car but it was swept into the water and then washed into a tree.

The pair clung to the tree after the father grabbed a rope from the submerged car, which he used to tie himself and his child to the tree, so they wouldn’t be washed away.

When the water subsided on Sunday morning, they climbed down more than 10m to the ground and made their way to the homestead to raise the alarm.

Aside from some dehydration, insect bites and exposure to the elements, they appeared uninjured but were taken to the Kingaroy Base Hospital for further medical attention.

Another man, aged in his fifties, was injured when he drove into floodwaters near Gheerulla just before 6.30am Saturday.

The man managed to get himself out of his vehicle and walked for about a kilometre, until he was able to find a house and call for help.

He was airlifted and flown to Sunshine Coast University Hospital, suffering back injuries.

Three families shared a small boat that one of them was towing, when they all became trapped in rising flood waters near Woolooga.

As the water rose, the nine people climbed into the boat, which the owner secured to a power-pole, and they could only watch on helplessly as one by one their cars were submerged.

They called for assistance, but QFES said conditions were too hazardous to come and get them, so they stayed put in the boat until the following morning when it was safe to retrieve them.

Reports have also emerged that emergency personnel were surprised on at least two occasions by rescues they weren’t initially aware of during the dozens of rescues on Friday night on the stretch of the Bruce Highway just north of Gympie.

A rescue worker is reported as saying among the “hundreds“ of cars that had been swept off the road, workers were “randomly coming across people in trees who needed rescue we didn’t know were there.“

He said they spotted one person waving his mobile phone torch from a tree around 15m away from the road and another person approached them, wading through floodwaters as they attempted to assist people who’s homes had been inundated in the area.