Devastated Grantham declared crime scene

By: Tony Koch

TEAMS of police, firefighters and emergency workers yesterday conducted a house-by-house search for bodies in the devastated township of Grantham.
Separate groups of police divers, each ominously with folded body bags in hand, combed Great Sandy and Lockyer creeks and adjacent pools of water.
The bodies of two men were yesterday found in Lockyer Creek at Brightview, 25km downstream from Grantham, and at Tarampa, 5km further along.
Farm labourer Chris ``Kiwi'' Shirtcliff was caught in his hometown of Grantham when the wall of water struck on Monday.
Yesterday, he ferried two elderly husband-and-wife teams out of Grantham in the cabin of his huge Case tractor.
The flash flood that had started at the top of the range in Toowoomba has reduced Grantham to dozens of piles of twisted, muddied rubble. Domestic pigs roam the roads and side-streets along with scores of pet dogs whose owners have been evacuated or perhaps even perished.
The entire town has been declared a crime scene and nobody is being allowed to return until police are convinced there are no bodies left in the rubble.
Snakes are abundant, and causing problems for the search teams as they ferret through houses, sheds, rubble piles and wrecked cars.
The railway line, the highest point, is twisted and washed out. There are smashed boats, cars and caravans on the line. Low-set homes have been washed from their brick foundations, and others have simply been swept into the flooding creek and spirited away, ending up in paddocks or littering the creek banks.
Cadaver dogs are being used in the initial search for bodies in what were proudly kept humble homes, and then the human search crews follow. Vans from commercial funeral houses are parked alongside the police cars.
Local opinion is that the deaths were brought about because residents had so little notice of what was coming on Monday.
One teenage girl told of the plight of her mother, two brothers and baby sister. ``Mum got a phone call from a friend and she had seven minutes to get out. They did not even have time to get shoes on and they ran to the railway line, which is the highest point, and headed for the school. People were screaming in fear and carrying babies and everything and the water was roaring,'' she said.
Yesterday morning a lonely figure hefting just a bag of belongings trudged through knee-deep mud to a police roadblock on the eastern approach to Grantham.
He had left his home and run to the school, where he'd spent the past two days with 50 others in the evacuation centre.
``We had no warning and were running along the rail line, mothers with kids, everything, and the water was just in front all the way. It was scary, and now at the school they've run out of food and water so that's why I walked out. I'm chasing a lift back to Gatton.''
Locals now face the reality that worse is to come. They will soon know the list of dead and missing, and in a farming community of just 150 people everyone will be missing family or friends.
The official announcement yesterday was that 12 people are confirmed dead in Toowoomba, Murphy's Creek and Grantham as a direct result of the incredibly heavy rain on Monday. More than 50 people are ``missing''.