3 Apr 2017

Family rescued minutes before house swept away

6:52 am on 3 April 2017

A family has been saved from the roof of their Queensland home minutes before it was swept away in floodwaters from ex-Cyclone Debbie.

The dramatic rescue played out in the early hours of Saturday morning as the flooded Albert River devastated a street at Luscombe, on the northern Gold Coast.

The mother and two children had waited on the roof for hours in the dark.

Neighbours directed three State Emergency Service (SES) personnel - Chris Holloway, Claire Browning, and disaster management officer Jim Ferguson - to their aid.

Mr Ferguson said it took about an hour to get to the house, dodging high trees, powerlines and debris that was coming down the river.

"I climbed over the balcony, hands and knees along the awning, stood up, and made my first real contact with the parent and the two kids."

The trio were helped into the boat, along with another man and two dogs who were inside the home.

Fifteen minutes later, the house was swept away.

"It was, tough ... the scariest thing I've ever done," said Mr Ferguson.

Rescuers Chris Holloway, Claire Browning and Jim Ferguson.

Rescuers Chris Holloway, Claire Browning and Jim Ferguson. Photo: ABC / Supplied / Jim Ferguson

The remnants of the house, and neighbours' sheds, stretch hundreds of metres down the quiet rural street.

Neighbours and friends spent Sunday clearing debris, and rebuilding fences.

Angelique Golbach's house, just a couple of doors down, had water swept through its first floor, and her front lawn was covered in piles of mud-soaked belongings.

The next step was to sort through what was left and see what could be salvaged, she said.

Just down the street Craig Detheridge's bus was swept on its side.

He said he had never seen water so powerful.

"It was unbelievable, out here it was doing a hundred miles an hour, it was like rapids out there," Mr Detheridge said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to the efforts of the SES.

"If it wasn't for the SES we would not have four people with us, so a big thank you to the team," Ms Palaszczuk said.

The cleanup begins in central Lismore in the wake of flooding as ex-cyclone Debbie made its way south across the country.

The clean up begins in central Lismore in the wake of flooding as ex-cyclone Debbie made its way south across the country. Photo: AFP

In the north of New South Wales, a large clean-up job faces residents returning home after devastating flooding brought by ex-cyclone Debbie.

The New South Wales SES has cleared people to return to their homes and businesses in Lismore, as flood waters recede in the stricken city.

Landslips are blocking roads in some places and, despite the floodwaters receding, some people remain isolated.

- ABC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs