I . Unprecedented Floods Take Heavy Toll of Human Life Fourteen Deaths in Derby Disaster---Eight Drowned at Gawler
In Tragic Desolation THE TOWNSHIP OF DERBY AT LEAST FOURTEEN MISSING HILLS SHEARED BY FORCE OF FLOOD DERBY, Friday. Derby, the site of the famous Briseis Mine and scene of the tragic disaster yesterday, when the dam three miles from the town burst, letting loose an avalanche of water, was a desolate town to-day. The atmosphere of tragedy which overhung the village was accentuated by the lowering grey skies which continued all day to pour down unceasing showers of rain. Its precincts are covered with swirling brown water. The disaster yesterday wrought an incredible change in the appearance of portions of the town, the most startling being the lake of water, pierced here and there by protruding pinnacles, which was formerly the crater of the the Briseis Mine. Although the water has subsided over 8 feet since yesterday, the Ringarooma River continued to pour volumes of fresh across the face of the mine, in which there is 150 feet of water. The roll of missing now totals fourteen, but it is pos- sible that others whose homes are over the river are also gone. The official list is as follows: Steven Whiting, his wife, and three children. W. Bracy, 60 years, a miner, married, with a grown up family. S. K. Jack Brodley, aged 58 years, a miner, married, with a child. Don Richardson, 48, married, with five children. William Beamish, about 50 years, engineer at the mine, married, with two childen .(including a son at Electrona). Phil. Denehey, about 50. Archbald Jaffray, about 19 years, clerk, single. Gordon Good, about 28, a miner, married, with one child. Hector McCormack, about 28, married, with one child. Little Girl, McWatters, aged about 5.
• Throughout the north-eastern dis- tricts the fall of water can hardly be credited. Every hill has become a watershed under the influence of a driving rain which fell incessantly to- day, and the smallest creeks have be- come rushing rivulets, cascading down the hillsides. Although the water had receded over eight feet many of the streets in Branx- holm, five miles from Derby, were rivers of muddy water. Fences had been des- troyed and the walls of the houses to day still bore signs of the water which had risen up to the windows. TWO BRIDGES GONE Between Branxholm and Derby the road was in many places barely pass- able. Several telegraph poles hung at dangerous angles over the thorough- fare. As Derby is approached, the road, usually hundreds of yards from the Ringarooma River, runs alongside a stretch of water half a mile wide. Both bridges over the Ringarooma, at either end of the town of Derby, have been swept away. That on the road leading to the station snapped in half on Thurs- day night, and a huge section out of the middle has been thrown up on the hillside two hundred yards further down. The other bridge, that on the main road, was the first thing to go in front of the advancing wall of water from the broken dam and has disap- peared. TRAGIC SUDDENNESS The most distressing feature of the disaster was its tragic suddenness. A distant roar, growing louder as it ap- proached, was the first warning of the oncoming flood. At 4.30 on Thursday afternoon the avalanche reached the town, and tearing through the bridge, Poured over the intervening ground. Meeting the Ringarooma River, it flood- ed over the edge of the mine crater and dropping in a foaming waterfall a dis- tance of 100 feet, gushed into the mine workings. Mr. Beamish, the engineer, had given the staff in the office warning, and they barely escaped before the mine offices and building were demolished. Down in the crater of the Briseis mine over 60 men were at work and they just escaped. Most of the missing men were caught in the flood waters at the Briseis stables before the waters reached the mine, but Mr. Whiting and family lived in a house about a mile from the town, right in the path of the torrent. This, with two other houses there, disappeared, and Mr. Beamish, who gallantly warned the other mem- bers of the staff, has not been seen since. HUGE CRATER DISAPPEARS Derby to-day is a town of desolation. To any who have seen the vast crater formed by years of working of the Bri- seis Mine, it seems incredible that it should now have disappeared beneath the flood waters, but that was the posi- tion to-day. It is estimated that there is 150 feet of water in the huge cavity. The flood waters are level with the lower portions of the town, filling the crater of the mine level with the river, a few pinnacles on top of the heaped overburden remaining like islands in a yellowish sea. At the bottom of this lake, which is over a quarter of a mile wide, is the electrical machinery and other mining plant. It was on two of these pinnacles that eight men scram- bled while the flood waters rose around them. They were rescued by Consta- ble W. Taylor, who rowed across the flood at great risk to himself in a small boat, one side of which was partly staved in through his efforts. The whole eight men were rescued one at a time. BURSTING OF DAM The dam was built about three years ago. A wall of concrete was con- structed across a gully a distance of about 100 yards, behind which the water banked up for about one and a half lmiles, and was in some places 70 ft. deep. The water was over the top of the dam for some time before it burst. The caretaker (Mr. Jaffray) tried to warn the town by telephone, but a tree had broken the wire. The water had two outlets, one of which was the Cascade River, and along this route it brought destruct- tion. Two men, Messrs. Norton and Will- iam Quinn, were working about a mile from the dam when the first wave, about 20ft, high, came down the gully. Mr. Quinn said to-day that but for a log jamming him against a tree he would have been swept away. He and Norton escaped, but Messrs. Mc- Cormack and Good, who were nearby, fell under the water and were drowned HOUSE MOVES BODILY The torrent tore down the gully to Whiting's house, where, it is stated, the family was at tea, and eye-witnesses watched the whole building come off its
foundations and rolled into the flood. They also heard the cries of the victims. Mr. McWalters, with his wife and family, were the next to be caught in the flood. They were escaping when a little girl, aged five, was caught in some timbers, and despite the efforts of her bro- thers, was torn away by the tugging waters. The family were half sub- merged, but struggled out. Two men, Messrs. Connelly and Dug- gan, who were in a tent, were half buried in the water, which flung them into some bushes from which they es- caped. HILL COLLAPSES After passing McWalter's, the flood from the dam took a different course, and swept on relentlessly towards the town of Derby. A low hill, which lay across its course, collapsed like loose sand, and the waters, sheering through, made a cutting over 100 feet deep and 70 yards wide, through which the tor- rent, now a wall of water a hundred feet high, tore down with terrifying speed towards the town. MEN, STABLES, HORSES GO Many people rushed towards the higher points of the town, thinking that the whole village would be sub- merged. The Brisels stables were in the course of the flood, and, smashed into matchwood, disappeared with 12 horses and three drivers, Messrs. Rich- ardson, Bracey, and Brodley. There was no escape for them, for the water, despite its depth and speed, was spread over a width of 200 yards, evidence of which was given to-day by the cavity it left. Huge logs brought down by the flood rested to-day over 70ft. above the nor- mal height of the river. The main road, which passed over here, crum- bled and disappeared, and so deep and wide is the channel left by the tearing waters that it appears likely that it will be impossible to build an- other road there, although a bridge could be constructed at considerable cost. RIVER'S COURSE CHANGED The Cataract River, the course of which has been changed by the break- ing of the hill, now runs along the deeply worn course made by the ava- lanche. An outcrop of stony ground un- doubtedly saved Derby. The flood was heading direct for the town, and on its outskirts, where it bubbled like a huge cauldron against the rocky out crop and turned aside with a roar, it struck a veritable hill of tailings, and, spraying up to a tremendous height for a few minutes, swept on triumphantly as the sandy banks, which are about 200ft. high, caved in and were swept away. Where the water drove through there is now a sleep cliff of sand, half of the hill remaining. The rest has been cut off like cheese, and has dis- appeared. It was just about then that young Jaffray and Denehey were drowned, and Bleamish disappeared af- ter warning the remainder of the staff. Several houses toppled over and were swept into the flood, the occu- pants just escaping with their lives. The Brisels Company's power-house was carried away bodily and the of- fices demolished. SIX HOUSES DESTROYED Altogether six houses have been de- stroyed at Derby. -three when the bridge over the main road was struck. There was a crackling, and the struc- ture disappeared. Meanwhile the main body of water continued along the side of the mine, following the course of the Ringarooma River. The stream banked up for a mile towards Branx- holm, another bridge going in its course, and as the waters piled up they backed again towards Derby, and poured over into the mine. Eight men were working 110 feet down in the mine, and were saved. The vast crater filled to the level of the Ringarooma River, and it is con- sidered that but for the excavations taking such a considerable quantity of water (the only outlet as it proved), the whole town would have been swamped. The main street of Derby rises as it enters the centre of the township, and many houses at the lower end were submerged. Two motor cars dis- appeared, and many outbuildings were destroyed. There was twelve feet of water in the Dorset Hotel, in the kitchen of which a log was later found which five men were needed to shift. The home of the late Mr. Beamish was half submerged, and to-day the road near the Dorset Hotel was lit- tered feet deep with logs, barrels, and other debris. The water was still over the road near the town the only entrance being by walking half a mile around the hillside.
NO BODIES RECOVERED None of the bodies has been re- covered, and it is impossible to search for them. They will probably never be found, because of the force of the water and the huge amount of drift- ing silt. The townspeople are full of praise for the work done by Constable Tay- lor, who worked throughout the night, and they eulogise also Father Fitz- gerald, who was associated with Con- stable Taylor in the rescue of the eight men. The men were in their precarious position for nearly two hours, and the rescue was carried out in the semi-darkness. MANY PEOPLE HOMELESS Many people have been driven out of their homes. and others have lost everything. They are billeted by other people in the township. Considerable damage was done to furniture in swamped houses, and the outbuildings at the Recreation Ground have been demolished. The grandstand appears to be safe. The water ap- pears to have receded to-day, but in cessant rain may keep the flood at its present level. As for the future, many are sceptical.