Lives lost in wall of water

The West Australian
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At least four people are dead and up to 50 are missing after tsunami-like walls of water hit Toowoomba and nearby towns in Queensland yesterday without warning.

In a massive escalation of the flooding disaster that has engulfed eastern Australia for weeks, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh called the growing tragedy “the darkest hour of the last fortnight”.

She said a boy and woman — believed to be his mother — were found dead in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.

At Murphy’s Creek in the Lockyer Valley, a man and a boy died after being washed away. Grave fears were held for the safety of at least another three people there.

“We have unconfirmed reports out of Grantham that have us holding very grave fears for the safety of a number of people in the Grantham township, ” Ms Bligh said.

The fate of 30 people believed to be sheltering in a wooden school building at Grantham was not known.

At least one person was missing at Grantham and five at Withcott, east of Toowoomba.

“We believe we are looking for at least three young pedestrians and two vehicles that seem to have been washed away, ” Ms Bligh said.

She said water had hit at lightning speed.

Insp. Douglas McDonald told the ABC three people had been trapped in a car in Toowoomba, but nothing could be done to save a woman and child.

“Only one of those persons was able to be rescued before the vehicle and the other persons were swept away, ” he said.

Their bodies were recovered near the CBD, hundreds of metres from where they were caught up in the floodwaters, the ABC reported.

The flash flooding has torn up roads, damaged buildings, swept cars down city streets and into waterways and washed homes from their foundations.

The ferocity of the floods stretched emergency services beyond the limit, with 90 life-threatening incidents reported around 1.30pm. Rescue missions continued overnight as crews tried to reach submerged vehicles.

People were trapped in buildings and on rooftops.

Toowoomba mayor Peter Taylor said there was still no clear picture of the damage but it was enormous.

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