Kiwi found safe in flood zone

By Trevor Quinn of the Wairarapa Times- Age -
Australia is battling the highest floodwaters since records began in 1870. Photo / APN
Australia is battling the highest floodwaters since records began in 1870. Photo / APN

An 82-year-old former Masterton resident has been located by Interpol after his family feared he was lost in the Queensland floods.

Guy Heming lived in New Zealand for 21 years before moving to Queensland more than 30 years ago. He now lives in Bargara, about 13km outside Bundaberg.

He has two daughters in Masterton, a daughter in Lower Hutt and a son in Auckland, and for two days last weekend they feared for his safety after flooding and tornadoes battered the east coast of Australia and cut off all forms of communication.

"[My daughter] was very worried," Mr Heming said. "She wouldn't have got me anyway, as the phones were all out."

Mr Heming said the power was cut off for three days and after his cellphone battery died he had no way of communicating with his family to confirm he was okay. The flooding had also blocked off most of the roads in the area.

His anxious daughter Trish decided to contact the State Emergency Services (SES), an Australian volunteer organisation that provides emergency help, to ascertain that her father was safe and well.

The SES called out to Mr Heming's home while he was gone to visit a neighbour, so could not confirm he was fine. His daughter, who was growing more anxious by the hour, then decided to contact Interpol, the world's largest international police organisation to locate him.

"She went to the New Zealand police and requested the help of Interpol," he said. "If my daughter was that keen I'm glad I wasn't trying to get away, because with her on the case I wouldn't have got very far."

After Mr Heming's neighbour heard about an appeal on the radio he contacted him and Mr Heming was finally able to contact his relieved family.

Mr Heming said an emphatic response from the authorities and emergency personnel has prevented far more catastrophe and deaths in Bundaberg, something the military veteran is thankful for.

The well-travelled Englishman served in the British Army during the Korean War in 1952. He was also on active duty during the Malayan emergency in 1953, and in 1954 he fought in Kenya against the Mau Mau, a militant African nationalist movement.

He said the experience with the flooding and tornadoes had been "just as frightening" as the years he spent in the military and the recent flooding was "considerably worse" than in 2011.

"Now the tornado and flooding in Bundaberg is not due to the rain. It's due to the Burnett River catchment area and the amount of water coming down it," he said. "A few days ago in Bargara, there was two huge yachts on sand which had been carried all the way from Bundaberg and they were bashed up on our shore."

It has been estimated that 2000 homes and 300 businesses are flood affected in Bundaberg and Mr Heming said one of his neighbours had experienced a fortunate escape.

"A tree came down and crushed her caravan, and she had actually just got up to deal with a call of nature," he said. "The tree crushed everything, if she hadn't got up she would have been dead."

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