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Thredbo Disaster: 20 Years On

27 July 2017

Thredbo Disaster: 20 Years On

Major Earle Ivers supports emergency personnel at Thredbo in 1997. 

This year marks 20 years since the horrific Thredbo landslide – one of the nation’s worst disasters.

Just before midnight on 30 July 1997, a landslide at the NSW ski resort of Thredbo swept two lodges more than 100 metres down to the valley floor, killing 18 people.

Australians collectively held their breath as the rescue unfolded on television, watching in horror and admiration as emergency services, faced with the continual and very real threat of further landslides, battled to find anyone alive in the rubble that was the Carinya and Bimbadeen ski lodges.

Local engineers and plant operators, police, ambulance and fire services, and support agencies – including 70 members of The Salvation Army – worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the landslide.

Major Bob Garven offers a listening ear to emergency personnel at Thredbo in 1997. 

For a period of eight days, Salvation Army volunteers manned coffee urns and barbeque plates, providing around 16,000 meals. Salvation Army members offered chaplaincy, counselling and support during the frantic fight to find survivors, and to the grieving friends and relatives of the people tragically killed.

Salvation Army chaplains, Lieutenant-Colonels Don and Bernice Woodland, provided support and friendship to the sole survivor, ski instructor Stuart Diver.

Major Earle Ivers of The Salvation Army says he will never forget his experience at Thredbo. Looking back, Earle says he thought he had prepared himself for the shock of the disaster, but when he arrived he was “overcome by the magnitude of it”.

“I marvelled at the spirit of community that existed in that place, but couldn’t escape the enormous sense of grief and loss that was theirs. Standing in the crowd outside the small chapel during the service I heard men and women weep, I heard them whisper the Lord’s Prayer, and I stood silently as the words of ‘How Great Thou Art’ echoed through the valley. God was there. I have no doubt about it.”

If media coverage of these events brings feelings of anxiety or stress, we encourage you to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Story by Naomi Singlehurst

This article first appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of 'On The Scene' to mark 10 years since the Thredbo landslide.

The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters throughout Australia. We pay our respect to Elders and acknowledge their continuing relationship to this land and the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.

The Salvation Army is a child safe organisation that is committed to ensuring the wellbeing of children and young people, and protecting them from harm.

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