Queensland Irish pub owner tells of flood drama

Source: Irish Echo, Australia’s Irish Newspaper.  Article by Claire McGreal.

The roads at Clifton, half an hour from the devastated Toowoomba, were mainly underwater when worst of flooding hit on St Stephens Day.

The owners of an Irish hotel in Queensland are thanking their lucky stars to have escaped any major damage in the flood crisis thus far.

O’Shanley’s Irish Bar and Restaurant is situated in the farming town of Clifton, half way between water ravaged Toowoomba and the town of Warwick, and around 150 km from Brisbane.

At least ten people have died so far in the crisis and another 90 are missing, in what Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has described as the “worst natural disaster in our history”.

Armagh native Kathleen O’Shanley, who’s been running O’Shanley’s Hotel with her husband Fletch since 2003, says the town was hardest hit on St Stephens Day, devastating local crops and produce, and destroying the railway line.

“Big round bales of hay were floating everywhere and every bridge was broken,” she explains. “ The railway lines will not be able to be used for God knows how long because [the bales] took everything in, the damage [to the line] has been astronomical…But the poor farmers [were affected] more than anything else…their crops are just finished, they’re done. It looked like we were on the beach…it was shocking.”

Despite this, Ms O’Shanley believes the hotel’s location most likely saved it from the worst excesses of the flooding.

“We’re not right beside the creeks… [the creeks] overflowing plus the rain caused the damage.”

However, the O’Shanleys were forced to use an electric pump to drain water from underneath the hotel.

“We couldn’t figure out what the smell was at first,” says Ms O’Shanley. “But we’ve been awfully lucky… we were expecting the water to flood the hotel…we’ve had the luck of the Irish. To be honest I can’t even think in terms of us at the moment…all the farmers are a mess… even when the water recedes our farmers have lost their crops.”

Ms O’Shanley’s daughter who lives in the Brisbane suburb of Rocklea was this morning forced to evacuate her home with her husband and baby to higher ground, for fear of being inundated with water. Her son has also been stranded at the family pub for the past three days, and is unable to get to Cairns for work either by air or via the roads.

Ms O’Shanley says she has also taken in an Irish “refugee” and her daughter, who had to flee their farm on the Clifton-Leyburn Road, which is now closed.

“Her ceiling was letting in… so she got her passport and other important things and stayed here. Her husband is stuck in Toowoomba… but I’m hoping he’ll be able to get through the roads today.”

Ms O’Shanley says authorities in Clifton are advising against any unnecessary use of the roads and the hotel has brought in sandbags in case of another downpour. “We’ve been told not to rest at ease,” she says.

O’Shanley’s is also planning fundraising events to raise money for fellow Queenslanders worst affected by the floods.


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