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Tsunami survivor escapes deadly Australian floods

by Staff Writers
Ipswich, Australia (AFP) Jan 15, 2011
Elielia Faiga'a hoped she would never see a tsunami again after surviving Samoa's deadly waves, but she was forced to endure the terror of another terrifying "wall of water" in Australia.

Unprecedented floods sent a powerful torrent of water barrelling into several towns west of the Queensland capital Brisbane, sweeping away more than a dozen lives along with homes, boats and cars as they rocketed downstream.

"I didn't think I could experience a second tsunami in my life," Faiga'a told AFP from Goodna, a suburb of the badly hit town of Ipswich, on Friday.

Faiga'a has been in Australia from her native Samoa since November to visit her brother, who has lived in Goodna with his five children since 2007.

The 39-year-old was not to know that Ipswich would be in the path of deadly floods that struck the Queensland town of Toowoomba with huge force on Monday and quickly ripped eastward towards the town.

"On Tuesday, I was home. An old man, a neighbour, told us the level of the Woogaroo Creek, less than 100 metres from the house, was going up quickly," she said.

"He was there in '74 so he advised us to leave quickly," she added in reference to deadly floods which struck the area in 1974.

By late afternoon, the water had risen so rapidly the family evacuated.

"We didn't pack anything. I told my brother we only had to save the children," she said.

"In Samoa, in 2009, we had been warned of a tsunami, we had packed few things and took them to the mountain. But this time, we didn't take anything, so we have lost everything."

The devastating flood, described as an "inland tsunami", flooded about 3,000 of Ipswich's homes and businesses and prompted a report that a bull shark was seen swimming in the main street of Goodna.

Faiga'a said the house her brother had rented was destroyed, with the dirty floodwater reaching to the roof, adding that he had no insurance to cover his family's possessions.

However, the family managed to save an Xbox console, a child's scooter and a plastic coconut tree "to remember where we come from".

"That's all the clothes I have left," she said, gesturing to her mud-spattered white T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and sunglasses.

"In Samoa, we lost friends and family," she said about the September 2009 tsunami which struck the Pacific nation, killing 143 people.

"Here nobody died in the neighbourhood, but still, I couldn't imagine to experience another tsunami in my life, although this one is much different."

"In 2009 we could see some waves, here, the water went maybe 15 metres high in minutes."

Goodna has fared badly in the flood disaster which stretches across a vast area of northeast Australia with houses destroyed or damaged, debris tossed onto roof tops and residents forced to throw away piles of waterlogged belongings.

"We'll have to find a new house but we don't want to live in this place, Goodna," Faiga'a said, though she admitted it was close to the biscuit factory where her brother works and the children's school and that the neighbours were kind.

"I was supposed to go back to Samoa next month, but I can't leave my brother like that, as long as he has not got a new home, and his kids need me," she said.

"What gives me hope... it's all the people who put their hands together, that's the best for me. I will tell this when I'm back in Eva (in the Samoan capital Apia)."

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