Saturday, May 14, 2011
Of course, as we know, this devastating flash flood, or inland tsunami as it was called, was not the end of the road for this massive, angry, rushing wall of water that was hell bent on wrecking lives and homes, of wiping out towns that got in its way, and of eventually contributing to the flooding of the third largest city in Australia, Brisbane. So many lives lost
I remember wondering, as I was driving along the highways of that faraway land, at the marvellous resilience of humankind. To rise from the worst, to rebuild, and to once again live peacefully, even after enduring such horror and losing so many loved ones.
Between Helidon and the foot of the range, is the little town of Withcott, until now famous for the fact that there was always a copper sitting just inside the 60 kph zone as you passed through, waiting to zap you. Everybody, absolutely everybody, makes sure they reduce their speed to 60 kph as they enter Withcott. Well, now Withcott is famous for being one of the towns that was hit with the raging wall of water that spilled mysteriously over the lip of the Great Dividing Range at Toowoomba, and flew down the mountain, wiping out little hamlets such as Postman’s Ridge and Murphy’s Creek. It also tried to wipe out Withcott. As I was crawling through the town – the main highway is the one and only main street of this little farming town – I could see wrecked buildings, all unrecognisable except for a wrecked petrol station which was no longer open for business.
I climbed the range. A lovely dual carriageway of black that winds very steeply to the top that always has large semi-trailers crawling up at snail pace in the left lane, and cars cautiously making their way past them in the right lane, this piece of highway is famous for the fact that the large semi’s often cannot make it to the bottom of the range without losing their brakes and flying over the side of the cliff and into the gullies below. It is also famous for its bellbirds. I remember as a child, we would climb the range in our very old, burnt out VW Kombi Van that barely made it up, and would go so slow that we could easily hear the beautiful call of the bellbirds, our windows wound right down, letting in the glorious sound. But this day, it was also famous for being the carriageway that carried some of the massive wall of water that flew down and through Withcott, then kept going, flattening all that stood in its path, particularly the town of Grantham.
For anyone who has ever climbed the Toowoomba Range, as it is called, you will know the sense of surprise when, all of a sudden, you pop out of the steep climb and into the verdant green, beautiful city of Toowoomba, the Garden City. This part of the trip never fails to make me happy.
As I stand at the window of my hotel room, I see the volcanic crater rim, I look down into the streets that were shown on television, and I shake my head with a total lack of comprehension at the fearful might of Mother Nature. Mother Nature - one minute so generous, the next meting out punishment to innocent people with rage and fury so violent, so unstoppable, that one wonders why.
I doubt anyone will forget that day. To the memory of those who died in the terrible tragedy that hit this beautiful city on 10th January, may you all rest in peace, and may your families eventually find comfort. To those who risked their own lives saving others, thank you.
ABC news footage of the minutes when the inland tsunami hit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2011/01/10/3109884.htm
These photos courtesy http://www.couriermail.com.au/