Review: The Torrent by Amanda Gearing


Title: The Torrent: A True Story of Heroism and Survival

Author: Amanda Gearing

Published: 30th January 2017, UQP

Status: Read November 2022


My Thoughts:

The Torrent by Toowoomba journalist Amanda Gearing relates the events of the flooding that devastated the Lockyer Valley in 2011 and the extraordinary stories of survival, rescue and loss revealed in the aftermath. First published in 2012, this 2017 edition also includes updates on the lives of the original interviewees and reporting about the inquiries into the disaster held in later years.

During the summer of 2010/2011 Queensland experienced weeks of monsoon rains, causing widespread flooding across the southern half of the state. On January 10th 2011, the weeks of heavy rain forced a torrent of water through the town of Toowoomba, over the ranges and into the Lockyer Valley. With almost no warning, a wall of water, described as an ‘inland tsunami’, descended upon the communities of Spring Bluff, Murphy’s Creek, Postman’s Ridge, Withcott, Helidon and Grantham. Homes and buildings were swept away, crops and stock were decimated and tragically, twenty four people died.

Though the prose is delivered without flourish, the narrative is absolutely harrowing. I found my pulse accelerating and my body tensing as I read of the water raging through the valley, changing so many lives in its wake. Catherine, her husband Selwyn and their six year old daughter, Katie, were attempting to leave when their property at Murphy’s Creek was hit by a surge of floodwater. Catherine eventually found purchase on a tree about a kilometre downstream to which she clung for several hours before being rescued. Neither her husband nor daughter survived. After their car was swept off the road at Helidon, James Perry, his wife Jenny Thorncraft and their son Teddy climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and clung to the roof racks as it was tossed around by the churning waters. When high voltage live power lines began grazing the waters surface, the family were forced to abandon the car and were separated. Jenny was eventually rescued from a tree, and nine year old Teddy was found on top of a cattle feeder several hours later, over 6km away. The body of James Perry has never been found. Elderly couple Peter and Marie were trapped in their Grantham home for hours after it filled with water and was then swept nearly 2km downstream. These are a summary of just a few of the staggering stories of survival, tragic sacrifices and heroic rescues related in The Torrent.

Gearing goes on to explore the aftermath of the disaster, following up with survivors, witnesses and their communities to reveal how they have fared in the days, weeks, months and years since. The confidence of some residents that the flooding was unlikely to ever be repeated is heartbreaking given they have been, most recently in Feb 2022, though less dramatically. Gearing also discusses the findings of various official inquests and inquiries held, and their attendant controversies. Though the flash flooding was a result of excessive rain due to a La Niña weather event, multiple failures in planning, preparedness, and communication contributed to the loss of life.

Informative, insightful and powerful, The Torrent is both an important record of a natural disaster, and a compelling tribute to the individuals affected.


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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. BonnieReadsAndWrites
    Nov 27, 2022 @ 05:24:32

    This sounds fascinating

    Liked by 1 person


    Nov 27, 2022 @ 07:54:20

    A very timely book given the ongoing floods of the past few summers. These disasters are going to get worse and more frequent so I hope govt and emergency authorities read this and learn.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Mystica
    Nov 27, 2022 @ 12:51:03

    Emotional but harrowing. I doubt I could read it.

    Liked by 1 person


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  5. Anne - Books of My Heart
    Nov 28, 2022 @ 03:32:46

    I think I would like to read this one.

    Liked by 1 person


  6. Helen Murdoch
    Nov 28, 2022 @ 03:37:18

    This sounds like a harrowing experience for everyone. This type of book can be so tense to read.

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Tracey (Carpe Librum)
    Nov 29, 2022 @ 01:00:52

    Great review Shelleyrae, I’ve had my eye on this one since it first came out, hoping it would become available on audio. This updated edition seems like the best way to get up to speed on what happened then and what has transpired since.



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