The strain began to show on Premier Anna Bligh as she addressed a news conference today on the flood disaster gripping the Australian state of Queensland. With her voice quavering and a fisted hand gently tapping the open palm of the other, she said, "We are tough. We are Queenslanders. We're the people that they breed tough north of the border. We're the ones they knock down and we get up again!"
She continued, "This weather may break our hearts but it will not break our will! In the coming weeks and months, we are going to prove that beyond any doubt!"
The Brisbane River peaked at 4.46 metres around 4:00am this morning and was just over a metre less than predicted. A very small sigh of relief from those that had been spared was almost audible. But for many others, their fears had been realised.
Residential areas around the Brisbane River had been inundated with the muddy waters that had been swept down from the Lockyer Valley and through the city of Ipswich and into the Brisbane River. More than 30,000 homes and businesses are flooded in the wake of the devastating floods.
The chocolate brown water rose higher in Brisbane's Central Business District and the Entertainment and Arts Precinct of Southbank.
Most of Brisbane is still in darkness tonight. Power is slowly being returned to some areas but 103,000 homes are still blacked out.
Water is receding but leaves behind a very thick sludge; the top soil washed from the tableland of Toowoomba and the plains of the Lockyer Valley three days ago.
The number of dead has now risen to 15 and 61 people are still missing. Very grave fears are held for 12 of those missing.
A methodical search began today through debris, flood-ravaged farmhouses and creek beds in the Lockyer Valley where the wall of water wiped out the small town of Grantham.
Grim stories from the survivors are emerging. One told of a pregnant mother and her two young children who tried to flee the water. The mother clung tightly to her children but her youngest, a two year old child, was swept from her arms.
Another told of a family of four who could not escape the rising water in their house and the only thing to do was climb through a manhole and onto the roof. The two children made it up on the roof and when they looked back they discovered their parents had been swept away.
But amidst all of the devastation and horrific stories, the Aussie spirit shines brightly.
One home owner, upon being shown his submerged home by a film crew, said, "Oh well, we're here for the long haul. You can replace stuff. You can replace homes. You can't replace lives."
Another said, "... just enjoy the river frontage because you normally pay millions for it!"
A sign on a window says: "LOST. 3 Gold Fish. Last seen Tuesday."
Aussies ... Queenslanders ... are rallying. Those who have been fortunate are turning up at evacuation centres with food, clothing, offers of sharing their homes to those in need. Anything.
The Premier quipped, "If you can operate a broom or a mop, we have a job for you!"
Red Cross and other volunteer organisations are being inundated with offers of help. Teenagers help with heavy work. Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister, lifts a heavy suitcase and perches it on top of his head whilst helping an elderly gentleman move things out of his garage. Anyone who can, is pitching in and doing what they can to help.
A tug boat operator, Doug Hislop, is being hailed as a hero tonight. Early this morning a massive slab of a concrete walkway broke away from the city's popular structure known as the Riverwalk and floated down the Brisbane River. For 16 kilometres (10 miles) it sped down the river, spinning out of control and threatening all in its path. It was on a collision course with the Gateway Bridge, one of the city's major bridges which spans 260 metres over the river.
Doug Hisplop heard about the missile heading down the river when he was listening to his radio at 4:00am. Without being asked, Doug quickly jumped onboard his tugboat and caught up with the unwieldy projectile about half a kilometre from the bridge.
Doug and his 40 year old tug, the Mavis, fought against the fast-flowing river, expertly manoeuvering and nudging the 300 tonne mass of concrete. He moved from end to end, stopped it spinning, managed to keep it straight and ultimately guided it cleanly between the pylons of the bridge.
Once clear of the bridge, other vessels helped Doug nudge the mass onto mud flats near the mouth of the Brisbane River.
Doug is someone who just got in there and did what he needed to do.
Doug and his tugboat. A true story of the little tug who could.
That's the lovely thing about Aussies, they just get in there and give it a go. When the chips are down, Aussies stand by their mates and are always ready to lend a hand.
This is indeed The Lucky Country.
The Little Tug Who Could
Interview with the Tugboat Skipper:
Words K A Little 2011
Previous Reports on Australian Floods by K A Little: