Emergency Service rescue a man from the centre of town after heavy flooding in town.
Emergency Service rescue a man from the centre of town after heavy flooding in town. Marc Stapelberg

The story behind this iconic image from the Lismore floods

THERE was a strange sound coming from Keen Street - a gurgling, rushing sound.

Apart from this unidentified sound, it was eerily quiet as the isolated shouts of rescue workers and bystanders echoed off the building walls.

The Swiftwater Rescue crew had parked in water near the Tatts Hotel and proceeded to make their way down the street.

It was a surreal scene as the reflections of buildings could now be seen in the water where once people had grabbed coffee, read books or gone shopping.

The water was up to calf level.

Further down, the corner of Woodlark and Keen Street in the heart of Lismore's CBD had become a raging torrent that looked more like a rapids run than flood water and explained the gurgling sound I had heard earlier before.

Stuck on a wall virtually in the centre of this rapid was a man who had sought shelter at the Uniting Church.

After evaluating the situation the swift water crew tied a boat to a tree in the centre of Keen Street and called for further assistance from other SES units in the area.

In the meantime, I watched as an entire coke machine whipped round the corner near the pub and then proceeded to be carried down the rapid and into the wall at the church and then get sucked into a vortex of water before being shot out towards shop fronts further down towards the Caltex petrol station.

More than once the swift water crew had to deal with bystanders who continued to try and get closer to see the action.

Furthermore, the water had actually started to rise.

At this stage no one anticipated that all this water pouring into the city would continue, with the eventual flood levels to go much higher, especially in Keen Street.

The raging torrent was just the beginning, and where the man had sought shelter on the wall would have water lapping over it for the next two days.

Once back-up had arrived, consisting of another swift warter crew and three Lismore SES members, they secured a rope across the water while one crew member swam across and climbed the wall at the church.

With practiced precision they prepared to bring the man across the water after putting a lifejacket on him.

They re-secured the rope across the water and positioned themselves in case anything went wrong.

And then the moment arrived... they moved into the water slowly, the current sweeping their legs out, fear clearly visible in the man's eyes as the water engulfed them.

Once they made it to the middle of the street the crew were able to lift the man up and quickly bundled him into the boat and escorted him to safety.

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