Book review: The Torrent

Award-winning investigative journalist Amanda Gearing has written a very moving personal story of one of the most calamitous events in Australia’s history.
Award-winning investigative journalist Amanda Gearing has written a very moving personal story of one of the most calamitous events in Australia’s history. Contributed

BOOK: The Torrent

AUTHOR:  Amanda Gearing

PUBLISHER: University of Queensland Press

RRP: $27.95

IN JANUARY 2011, the unthinkable happened.

It began as constant rain over several days, culminating on the 10th as a torrent of water struck downtown Toowoomba, unleashing unprecedented volumes into surrounding areas and the Lockyer Valley below.

One of the most calamitous events in the country's history, the news was beamed worldwide.

We were 100 metres above the town centre, amazed at the tremendous amount of rain generated by the storm cell but blissfully unaware of the terrible events unfolding below us.

Award-winning investigative journalist Amanda Gearing has written a very moving personal story of the region's disaster, recounting dozens of heartbreaking stories; we meet the real faces and people behind the horrendous footage of people clinging for their lives in swirling mud and houses waist-deep in murky water or travelling at 70 km. per hour smashing through trees and debris in their wake.

Traumatised but desperately needing to tell their story, more than 100 survivors were interviewed by Mrs Gearing, who was inspired by their resilience and willingness to talk "in the hope that their eye-witness accounts would help ensure that improvements are made to warning systems and disaster responses in the future".

With little or no warning the flash floods wreaked their havoc in downtown Toowoomba, tumbling down in a wall of unstoppable water to Murphy's Creek below, Gowrie and worst of all, Grantham whose residents were graphically portrayed in the news footage when helicopter teams attempted to winch them to safety from their roof tops.

Amanda Gearing has written her timely book in the hope that people can learn lessons and access better warning systems and communications.

This "summer of disasters" was a wake-up call to everyone at every level in the community and governing bodies.

An appendix details precautions and recommendations for how to prepare for and deal with such events, with local government scheduled to "address local risks and circumstances" and "publish its disaster management plan before the next wet season".

The Toowoomba Regional Council has surely identified the geographical triggers and locations that preempted this disaster?

Ultimately it leaves unanswered questions such as, "What actual provision is local government making to prevent another build-up of water?"

Topics:  book review

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