Grantham residents back home

DISTRAUGHT Grantham residents returned to their homes yesterday, eight days after a wall of water tore through their small town.

Emotions ran high as residents saw their homes for the first time since then. Some homes were barely recognisable and personal possessions were strewn across the town.

Residents broke down in tears and had to be comforted by family. In some cases people said they considered themselves “the lucky ones” even though their homes were barely left standing.

The town, described by authorities as the epicentre of the flash flood, which ripped through the Lockyer Valley last Monday, has been closed to residents as police combed the area in search of people feared drowned.

While residents returned to their homes to grab the few personal possessions they had left, the search by police and army personnel for missing residents continued.

The death toll from last week's floods stands at 20, mostly from the Lockyer Valley, where 12 are still listed as missing.

Police began a staggered return of residents to Grantham at midday yesterday but, at the request of residents, the community has been closed to outsiders, including media, for a week.

Mayor Steve Jones said residents wanted time to grieve away from the attention of the media.

“A lot of them want to go in, find their things and grieve without anyone there around,” Cr Jones said. “Some of them haven't been there since it happened and some of them who are returning have lost friends and family members and now they're going back to have a look at where their lives were.”

Cr Jones was critical of the police decision to hand over management of the town to council, because it was given no time to prepare residents.

“It makes it more difficult for us to respond. If we had more notice we could have had more people involved, and we could have done a better job for the people and be there to offer them more assistance in the clean-up process,” he said.

A large contingent of chaplains is being flown to the Lockyer Valley from interstate to provide counselling to devastated residents.

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