Cosima Marriner March 18, 2012
Devastation ... a house in Grantham hit by the floods. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
ANOTHER class action is looming over the handling of the Queensland floods as Grantham residents seek more answers to the tragedy that befell them a year ago.
The grief wrought by the inland tsunami transfixed the nation in January 2011. Sixteen died in the Lockyer Valley and three are still missing.
Grantham residents who initially accepted the flood was a freak event now believe they were let down by authorities. ''I now question why the hell weren't we warned,'' said Marty Warburton, who has lived through 14 floods in his 20 years in Grantham. He had to be rescued from the roof of his service station.
Mr Warburton said the community was considering its legal options. ''It's not about revenge or being vindictive, or wanting to punish anyone; it's about wanting to find out what went wrong.
''If the flood inquiry doesn't answer that question, really the only avenue we've got is a class action. We don't want to do that; it's our last option. We want the truth.''
Lawyers acting for Brisbane and Ipswich flood victims are already collating evidence for a potential class action after the commission found Wivenhoe Dam was mismanaged. The commission's report, handed down on Friday, details for the first time every death that occurred in the area as a result of the floods.
People drowned trying to drive through the flood, were swept away in their houses or trapped by rising waters. Four people with mobility problems perished because they could not escape the wall of water. Their panic was recorded in calls to relatives and emergency services.
Bruce Marshall, who had impaired mobility, died in harrowing circumstances. Mr Marshall, 66, was alone in his home on the Gatton-Helidon Road after his wife and son had gone to Toowoomba. At 4.03pm, he rang his daughter to tell her the water was coming up through the floor and he was going to ring the SES. He then made a number of calls to rriple-0 for assistance, the last at 4.18pm.
''In those calls, Mr Marshall gave an account of increasing desperation: the water had come up to his waist, then to his shoulders; he could not get out of the house,'' the report stated. ''His body was found in the house on the following day.''
The report also details how rapidly rising and fast flowing water stymied emergency authorities' attempts to warn residents, then rescue them.
An SES team set out at 2.50pm to doorknock Grantham on the likelihood of flash flooding and encourage evacuations, but they had to turn back. Paddocks had flooded and a shipping container was floating down the road. The water roared through Grantham between 3.20pm and 4pm. Shortly after, the fire service received 20 calls for help from Grantham residents, mainly from people trapped in their homes. The interim report of the floods commission released last year recommended warning sirens and alarm-activating river gauges.