John Newley of the Warwick SES.
John Newley of the Warwick SES.

SES stalwart recalls rescues

WHILE some watched the horror of the floods which tore through the state on TV from the comfort of their couches, others clung to their roofs to try and escape the rapidly-rising water.

Then there were those who dove right into harm's way to save the people of the Southern Downs - and John Newley was one.

Mr Newley, an SES officer since 1977, sprung awake from his bed at midnight on Boxing Day with a phone call from Allora.

"We got a call from some Allora folks saying the floods were there so a couple of us decided to slip out to see what was going on," Mr Newley said.

"When we got to Allora we realised 'hey, this is really big'."

Mr Newley and the crews waded through waist-deep water, warning Allora residents to evacuate immediately.

"I made the call to the director and to council and said 'look it's time for you to get out of bed'," he said.

It was only a matter of time before the water made its way through to Warwick and then just days later, the second flood came gushing through town - this time with even more momentum.

"The first one (Boxing Day) was up, down and gone very quickly," Mr Newley said.

"The second time we did the doorknock to let people know what was going on and a lot of people took it very hard and those who had just cleaned up were like 'not again'."

Mr Newley said the worst part of all was seeing the devastation that had torn through the wider Downs region.

"For me, seeing what happened on the TV in Grantham and Toowoomba was probably the hardest part," he said.

"And the worst thing was after the event, seeing everybody's property scattered throughout the street."

Volunteers played an enormous role throughout the entire event.

"I don't think we would have survived without the volunteers - they made the lives of those affected just that bit better," Mr Newley said.

He said in his time with the SES, he had never been through a flood as big as the one that hit a year ago.

"I've been through a few floods, but never one of this size," Mr Newley said.

"You wouldn't think such a little thing like the Condamine River would grow into such a big beast."

"It's a feeling of relief when it's all over and then you can start to really think about what's happening."

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