20 minutes of fear at Easterfest
IT was a terrifying 20 minutes.
Thousands of people were scrambling through rushing water as they exited Australia’s biggest Christian music festival, Easterfest.
The fact that it was in Toowoomba – the same place we had all seen those terrifying videos of an inland tsunami – certainly fuelled the panic for us outsiders.
I had just finished watching my brother Peter play his first solo show when I could hear the rain pelting down on the main entrance pavilion.
About 15 minutes later the pavilion roof was sagging and clearly looking like it was about to collapse.
Security guards and volunteers rushed around inside the guest and VIP area, moving chairs and equipment but soon it became apparent there was a far bigger issue at stake – the safety of patrons.
Hundreds of people, who were watching the rain pour down outside the entrance to Easterfest, were soon advised they would have to go out into the deluge to get to higher ground – and away from any danger of collapse.
Security staff and volunteers first advised people to head to the Big Top – another tent – but that too was being flooded so many just headed across East Creek to the city and higher ground.
With no taxis around and our van parked too far away, we decided to head up the hill to our hotel.
But first I had to find my teenage son who was in another tent.
On the way back, I saw a pram being carried by two women almost topple over as they tried to dodge the floodwater.
I grabbed the pram and helped them carry it to higher ground before being reunited with my wife and other children.
By that stage my six-year-old son was absolutely terrified as we fought our way through the torrential rain and water streaming down the footpath near the rising East Creek.
On the side of the road, one car was stalled and abandoned in the middle of the road while the water was rushing by the doors of the parked cars on Margaret Street.
Police and fire sirens only added to the drama – and the tears of my little boy.
After making it safely to our hotel we could only think of what it would had been like for the families caught in the real flooding in January.
The next morning, as the sun rose over a beautiful Toowoomba Easter Sunday, the drama of the night before seemed a distant memory.
But it’s a night we will never forget.
Mark Furler is the editor in chief of the Sunshine Coast Daily and a regular at Easterfest, along with his brother Peter Furler, founder of Newsboys.