11.13 PM Thursday, 8 June 2023
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08 June 2023

Horrific picture emerges of Oz flash floods


The full horror of Australia's deadly flash floods emerged Thursday as rescuers found more bodies in wrecked towns and survivors told heart-rending tales of death and tragedy.

As Brisbane reeled from its worst floods in decades, emergency services sifted communities around Toowoomba, about 125 kilometres (80 miles) west in the Great Dividing Range, which bore the brunt of Monday's disaster.

Queensland state premier Anna Bligh said staff were reporting unimaginable scenes from the brief but devastating inundation which tore houses off their foundations and left some areas isolated.

"In the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley region, while the water has receded the kind of devastation that it has left is only now becoming clear to everybody in that valley," she said.

"This is a valley that has been completely and utterly devastated. There are now whole towns that are completely unrecognisable."

Rescuers engaged in the gruesome hunt for bodies found two more victims, taking this week's toll to 15, including one man killed in Brisbane. However, dozens are unaccounted for and officials hold grave concerns for 12.

One of those feared dead was James Perry, who was pictured on top of his floating car with his wife and son in one of the disaster's defining images.

Perry's wife and son were rescued, but when the helicopter returned there was no sign of the racing steward or his white four-wheel drive.

In Toowoomba, it emerged that schoolboy Jordan Rice, 13, who was scared of water and could not swim, told bystanders to save his 10-year-old brother, Blake, as fast-running waters engulfed the family car.

Seconds later Jordan and his mother, Donna, were sucked to their deaths, according to widespread media reports.

"He loved his family and would do anything for them," the boys' elder brother Kyle, 16, told The Australian newspaper.

Nearby in Grantham, among the worst-hit towns, some 30 cars lay crumpled beneath a bridge after being swept away by the waters, described as an "inland tsunami", though a search of the cars did not turn up any more bodies.

Earlier reports described how a couple hoisted their two children into a ceiling cavity in their flooded home before the waters dragged them away, while a "miracle" baby was also born during the disaster.

Images of the stricken district showed shattered homes and streets strewn with debris in scenes reminiscent of a cyclone or bomb attack. In Grantham, a rail line was suspended in mid-air after the earth beneath it was washed away.

Damaged reservoirs have also left the district perilously low on drinking water, Bligh said, with the military now aiding a round-the-clock mission to truck in supplies from other areas.