Prince William 'moved' by Australian flood stories
Sunday 20 March 2011
An 11-year-old whose brother sacrificed himself to make sure he was saved from raging floods today said his brother would have been proud of him as he met Prince William.
Blake Rice shook hands with the prince as he toured flood-ravaged areas of Queensland, Australia.
His 13-year-old brother Jordan told rescuers to "save my brother first" as the flash flood overtook Toowoomba in January.
Blake was saved, but Jordan and his mother were swept away and died.
Today Blake and his father John Tyson were just one of several families William met as part of his wider tour of disaster-stricken areas in New Zealand and Australia.
An aide said the prince was "incredibly moved" by the stories he heard on visits to the towns of Grantham and Toowoomba, which were affected by floods in late December and early January.
Floods hit an area greater than France and Germany combined, damaging or destroying some tens of thousands of homes and businesses and killing 35 people.
After meeting William in Toowoomba today, Blake said: "It was a real honour meeting the prince and I think my brother would have been proud of me.
"Dad told me to ensure that I gave him a firm handshake so I shook his hand and he told me that I needed to be strong."
His father said after spending several minutes talking to William, he could tell his words were sincere.
"The prince said that not a night went by where we were not in his thoughts", he said.
"You could see in his eyes when he shed a tear that our story re-opened his own pain and sense of loss at losing someone tragically that you so dearly love.
"You could tell that Prince William also felt our pain and that in itself was comforting."
Mr Tyson said the meeting had given him a new purpose but his personal pain and anguish will never go away.
"I have been in a rut ever since that afternoon in January but it certainly has given me a new purpose; it has definitely lifted my spirits and those of Blake," he said.
"I do not think that I will ever have closure, not a day goes by that I do not miss my wife and son."
In heavy rain in Grantham - a contrast to blistering heat in the north of the state yesterday - the prince met Danny McGuire, whose wife Llync-Chiann and two children died in the flood.
Neighbour Ian Pinkerton, 42, watched helplessly as the family struggled to get out of their truck as flood waters approached.
He said: "Danny and one of his sons got out of the window, and he helped him climb a tree.
"Llync and the other two kids could not get out. They looked straight at us. We could see the fear in their faces.
"Then the wall of water turned them over and took them away. It just engulfed them.
"I felt helpless. Normally if you see someone in the creek you can throw them a rope. But there was nothing you could do. You just had to watch. It was shocking."
Despite the sombre occasion, the prince brought a lift in Toowoomba, where crowds filled its showground for a country music event organised as a pick-me-up for the troubled town.
It was there that William met the Rice family, then later accepted an Akubra hat.
At a reception in Brisbane, also hammered by the floods, William passed his condolences to those affected and also those suffering in Japan.
He praised his helicopter pilot counterparts, along with other emergency services who helped rescue people.
He said: "This morning I heard from the Premier of the remarkable efforts of the helicopter crews, whose efforts saved so many from the waters.
"What she told me - with great pride in their achievements - about the job they did was simply outstanding.
"As a search and rescue pilot myself, I am full of admiration for their courage and skill."
He also insisted Queensland was "open for business", adding: "Queenslanders are renowned for their grit, for their resilience and courage. You only need ask the Canberra Rangers that!
"It is sure testimony to this irrepressible spirit that everywhere I have been the mood has been one of optimism, with Queenslanders very much 'open for business'."
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