Australian Geographic

Grantham’s road to recovery

“As we weep for what we have lost and as we grieve for family and friends, and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people they breed tough north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down and we get up again.”
Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, 2011

IT WAS 10 JANUARY 2011 and once again it was pouring with rain. Queensland had already endured its wettest spring and December on record, and yet still the rain kept coming. I was working at the time as a freelance photographer for Queensland’s main newspaper, The Courier Mail. And weary of capturing “wet weather photos”, I’d decided to stay dry inside my Toowoomba office.

Any further rain falling on the already sodden ground was running straight off and down city streets. The plates on the access holes down my road were banging up and down, swollen and bulging under the pressure of too much water. There had already been wide-scale flooding – the soil was oversaturated.

Then the phones really went berserk.

Toowoomba was one of many towns right across southeastern Queensland being hammered with devastating floodwaters. But then a report came in of Mother Nature unleashing the height of her fury not far away down the range, in the tiny Lockyer Valley town of Grantham. Reports started coming in of floodwater wreaking havoc in the centre of Grantham, of cars being swept away and piled on top of one another, and landslides. “There’s been a mini-tsunami,” distressed callers were saying. I needed to get working.

An 8m-high wall of water said to be travelling at speeds of up to 80km/h had smashed into the town without warning, swallowing everything in its path. “A wall of death coming towards us,” is how one witness described it.

Twelve lives were ultimately lost here and a further seven people died upstream in Murphys Creek, Spring Bluff and Postmans Ridge. As many as 119 homes suffered major structural damage or

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