Easterfest hit by flash flood
THOUSANDS of people had to be evacuated from Australia's biggest Christian music festival after the partial collapse of the main tent during a deluge.
Sunday's events at Queens Park have been cancelled with campers returning to the site to retrieve their belongings.
The Department of Community Safety said an estimated 15,000 people were at the festival when part of the entrance pavillion collapsed under the heavy weight of water.
Queens Park is situated next to East Creek, which surged above its banks last night causing flash flooding.
Festival CEO Isaac Moody told the ABC people were standing ankle-deep in water.
"There was certainly a torrent of water that flowed through the entire festival site," he said.
"We had here on site, our best estimate is about 50 millimetres in about half an hour, and that did mean the site did flood pretty significantly."
Campers were relocated to three evacuation centres.
Easterfest announced late Saturday night that the program in the main venue, Queens Park, had been cancelled but shows would continue throughout city venues.
On Sunday, the sun came out first thing providing perfect weather for the city program which included new free shows to appease patrons.
But on Saturday night, the festival was completely evacuated in what were chaotic scenes.
The creek running right alongside the entrance to the Queen's Park venue, which had been the scene of major flooding earlier this year, became a raging river, making for a precarious exit.
Children could be heard screaming as they were grabbed by their parents exiting the venue for higher ground.
“It all happened so fast,’’ one teenager said.
“People were panicking because they had seen what had happened on the news in Toowoomba,’’ another woman said.
Security guards were progressively moving people out of one of the main structures as the roof started to sink with the rain.
Organisers confirmed the tent had partially collapsed but there were no injuries and everyone had been accounted for.
Evacuation centres for campers have been arranged by the organisers at the following locations.
Toowoomba City Church, 10 Neil Street, Toowoomba.
Assembly of God, Spring Street, Toowoomba.
- Christ Life Presbyterian, corner of South and Greenwattle Street, Toowoomba
Patrons praised the work of staff in getting people of the main structure so quickly.
Those fleeing the main entry pavillion were initially told to head to the Big Top tent but that was also flooded with hundreds exiting from there to higher ground in the city.
The Christian spirit was well evident with festival goers helping mothers carry prams and ensuring that small children were helped across waterways.
Police were closing off roads as the torrential rain turned roads into rapids.
Numerous cars were abandoned after they stalled.
For the first time this year the camping area was completely booked out. But it was being evacuated as a safety precaution.
"All campers and attendees are safe,'' an announcement on the Easterfest website said on Saturday night.
"However, campers have had water in their tents and have been offered alternate accommodation in churches and halls in the nearby proximity. In the morning they will be able to collect any equipment.''
Ricky Robinson, 18, of Petrie, who was camping at the site said there was like a small river going through the area.
He said everyone was running around to get what belongings they could and move them to higher ground.
But at the main stage, the festival drawcard Switchfoot was continuing to play to a huge crowd.
The lead singer Jon Foreman was climbing up the support structures for the giant display screens.
“He was crazy. He was drenched pretty much,’’ Ricky said.
Security and tech guys were on hand to ensure the singer’s safety.
Ricky said the water was up to patron’s knees in the moshpit as the US band played on, despite the deluge.
After the show, people returned to the camping area and began packing up to leave.
The festival, which attracts about 30,000 people from all over Australia and features about 200 acts from around the world, had been a godsend for business trying to recover from the floods.
Many events had been organised in the city itself this year with organiser Isaac Moody regularly urging patrons to go and support businesses by having a meal, go shopping or just have a coffee.
Local churches had also raised about $100,000 for flood relief efforts.
Last night police posted a severe thunderstorm and flash flooding warning for Toowoomba and parts of the Lockyer Valley.
“Very heavy rainfall and flash flooding are likely," it said.
“Rainfall reports of about 40mm during the last hour in the Toowoomba region.’’