Sunday, June 10, 2007

Incredible Survival Stories, And Tragic Tales, Emerge From East Coast Flood Zones

A 40,000 tonne bulk freighter run aground at Nobby's Beach. More than 730 tonnes of fuel oil and diesel could leak from the freighter, causing an environmental catastrophe.

The Sydney, Newcastle and Hunter Valley regions of Australia's east coast copped an absolute pasting in the past 48 hours, with near cyclonic winds cutting off power to hundreds of thousands of people, huge rainfalls causing flash floods and swollen rivers and terrible stories of people being swept away to their deaths by washed out roads and walls of water tearing through their cars.

The rains are easing, but the rivers in the Newcastle and Hunter regions are still reportedly rising. More than 3000 homes are believed to have been flooded during the night. At least 1000 people have been evacuated. More than 200,000 people are expected to be without power for four or five days. The town centre of Wallsend, near Newcastle, has been "gutted" according to some reports.

Most media reports claim the rains, flooding and storm damage in Newcastle and the Hunter is the worst in more than 35 years.

Here's a few of the survivor stories, and tales of tragedy, that are in the media this morning :
Hundreds of people in Newcastle were forced to abandon their cars when flash floods swept through the streets. The force of the water was so strong, car doors were torn off. Two backpackers inflated a dinghy and rescued people from stranded taxis.

Only two weeks after the local business people of Wallsend met to discuss the future of their town, flooding has "ripped the heart" out of the working class community. A 1.5 metre high wall of water tore through the town centre, destroying nearly every business in the main street.

A young couple and three children were killed when a section of highway collapsed beneath their vehicle, plunging them more than 10 metres into a swollen river. The 30 year old father was reportedly swept away to his death during rescue attempts.

A 225 metre long coal ship is probably going to wind up as an unwelcome tourist attraction on a beautiful stretch of beach outside of Newcastle, as the 6 metre high swells push the freighter deeper into the sand, making it all but impossible to 'refloat' the vessel and use tugs to drag it back out to sea.

People have been discovering, to their horror, that their four wheel drives can't do what the ads say they can when it comes to flooded roads and rising rivers. A recently retired couple are believed to have died when their LandCruiser was hit by rising waters and swept off a bridge.

A local junior surf champion and his mate put on their wetsuits and swam through deep water in the centre of Newcastle, checking abandoned cars and rescuing people stranded by the rapidly rising floodwaters. One woman was surprised to see two "frogmen" pop up out of the water near her, asking if she was okay.
And this amazing tale :
Daniel Hocking, of Maryville, rescued a woman and her baby from a fast-sinking car in Hamilton on Friday evening. Mr Hocking, 19, dragged the frantic mother through a window then rescued her eight-month-old daughter from the back seat after they drove into a flooded area off Beaumont Street. "The mum was in quite a state at the time but she was really grateful afterwards," Mr Hocking said yesterday. "I was just glad I could help out where I could."