THE Northern Star edition of Saturday, February 20, 1954 reports on the "miracle" saving of flood-stricken Rockhampton after the Tropical Cyclone bee-lining for that town turned south at the last minute.

Yet just as The Northern Star celebrated Rockhampton's good fortune, the cyclone's pivot meant it saved its worst fury for the Far North Coast.

The very night of that edition, 15 people lost their lives, six of them children.

It's also 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II visited Lismore.

Because the flood struck so fast in Kyogle - an inland tsunami spawned by the massive amount of rainfall dumped on the Border and Richmond Ranges surrounding the town - residents had little time to prepare.

It was the first and worst hit, with 10 people tragically gone within hours of the flood peaking in the afternoon.

Other victims were a mother and her two boys, 26-year old Valda Sneeth and sons William, 4, and Robert, 2 - who drowned when the rescue boat carrying them capsized.

Five homes literally disappeared into the torrent as it struck.

Eight more were dragged off their blocks, floating several metres downstream.

The torrent continued to Casino where witnesses recall a "wall of water" surging down the Richmond River, washing away several homes on a now abandoned street connecting Canterbury and Fergusson Sts and drowning one man.

The Wilsons River sub-catchment fared no better - another tragedy unfolded in Goolmangar where seven- year-old Colin Emery was taken from his brother's arms as floodwaters rushed around them.

In Lismore, the flood struck with equal speed and fury down both Wilsons River and Leycester Creek, inundating the CBD overnight on Saturday the 20th.

It was the scene of several daring rescue efforts, including one in which a young mother was holding a six-week-old baby above her head in swirling floodwaters.

Many spent the night perched on rooftops in South Lismore, praying for the floodwaters to recede.

But in just trying to survive that night, no one yet fully comprehended the scale of the disaster.

Member for Richmond, Harry Anthony, appealed to Prime Minister Menzies for assistance and to declare it was disaster on a "national basis".

Richmond River flood plain, 1954 flood. Photo Contributed
Richmond River flood plain, 1954 flood. Photo Contributed Contributed

Flood peaks, Richmond Catchment

Kyogle: 7pm on Saturday, February 20 - 18.89m

Casino: Sometime during the night of Saturday, February 20 (exact time unknown) - 16.76m

Lismore: 4am on Sunday, February 21 - 13.41m

Wyrallah: noon on February 21 - 8.78m

Coraki: 5.30pm on February 21 - 6.98m

Rileys Hill: 5.30pm on February 21 - 5.23m

SOURCE: Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, New South Wales. February, 1956


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