Source : Pakalert Press
(Reuters) – Australia’s flood-stricken Queensland state should expect to see above-average cyclone activity through to end-March, the national weather bureau said on Friday, a forecast that threatens already flooded areas with more heavy rains.
“There is every chance we will still see above average conditions,” a Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said, saying that so far the current cyclone season had made a slow start.
Towns evacuated, major river warnings issued as floods sweep Victoria
UPDATE 8.50pm: THOUSANDS of Victorians have been forced from their homes as flood waters spread throughout towns and farms in the state’s north and north-west.
Some towns were all but abandoned as major flood alerts were called for the Glenelg, Wimmera, Loddon, Avoca and Campaspe Rivers, with minor flood warnings current for nine other waterways, including the Maribyrnong and Werribee Rivers in Melbourne’s southern and north-western suburbs.
The State Emergency Service (SES) said more than 2000 people had been evacuated throughout the state.
Evacuation warnings were issued this afternoon for the towns of Bridgewater, Carisbrook, Newbridge, Dadswell Bridge, Malmsbury and Durham Ox.
Residents had previously evacuated parts of Beaufort, Halls Gap, Great Western, Charlton and Glenorchy following the heaviest rains in years.
Most centres recorded an entire summer’s worth of rain in one night, the heaviest fall occurring at Mt William, which recorded 133mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Friday, with Stawell, Rupanyup and Ararat all recording close to 90mm.
Latest updates: Queensland floods
Defence Minister Stephen Smith says he was surprised at the rate at which the Brisbane River receded and hopes the cleanup will take weeks rather than months.
He said operations would soon be transitioning from a focus on search and rescue to cleaning up and recovery.
The current number of troops is more than sufficient, he said, but additions could be considered.
Hundreds of electricians from interstate are lining up to help Queenslanders.
National Electrical and Communications Association boss James Tinslay said more than 500 electricians from across Australia have registered to inspect the properties.
“I’m overwhelmed that so many electrical contractors have expressed an interest in travelling to Queensland to help,” Mr Tinslay said in a statement.
“We have had electrical contractors from as far away as Perth and Adelaide put up their hands to help out.”
Current legislation prevents interstate contractors from working in Queensland without a local licence.
NECA is in talks with the attorney-general and the Electrical Safety Office on suspending the regulation.
Coles and Woolworths say they’ve collected more than $4 million in donations from shoppers so far, while big business has also rushed to help flood-affected Queensland.
The latest running tally puts Coles donations at $2.3 million, while Woolworths is fast approaching $2 million.
The fresh food people have also pledged to match shopper donations dollar for dollar, which is likely to make it the biggest corporate donor so far, ahead of the Commonwealth Bank with its offering of $1.35 million.
An ultralight plane has crashed into floodwaters near Goondiwindi.
The plane crashed near Cemetery Rd, about four km east of the Queensland – New South Wales border town.
The pilot sustained no significant injuries.
One of Brisbane’s major arterial roads may be at risk of falling into the river, Lord Mayor Campbell Newman says.
Mr Newman said on Friday that Coronation Drive, which connects the CBD with the western suburbs, has been slow to reopen because of structural concerns.
He said the high river level and silt has made it difficult to inspect potential damage, but that council engineers were concerned the lanes closest to the river could fall into the water because of the unsteadiness of the river bank.
The number of defence personnel involved in the Queensland flood operation will double to 1200.
“This will be the biggest deployment for a natural disaster since Cyclone Tracy,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin at Christmas in 1984.
She said specialist defence psychologists would also be available to Queenslanders.
Supply routes to Queensland’s isolated regional and flood devastated regions are reopening as the water covering vital highways subsides.
Moggill Road is now open between Bellbowrie and Kenmore. The Carnarvon Highway from Injune to Rolleston is now open to vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 5 tonne or less from approximately 65km north of Injune to the Rolleston Township.
Visit http://www.131940.qld.gov.au for the latest information.
The Bruce Highway, the primary link between Brisbane and Queensland’s major population centres, reopened at Gympie on Thursday.
The highway will open to heavy vehicles at Rockhampton from 4pm local time on Friday afternoon, meaning supermarkets across central and northern Queensland will be able to restock.
Rockhampton has been cut off to the south for two weeks, forcing retailers across the northern parts of the state to resort to airlifts to get in emergency supplies.
Emergency supplies are also being trucked to devastated communities across the Lockyer Valley and Darling Downs, often under police escort due to the poor state of roads in the area.
Woolworths spokeswoman Claire Buchanan said the company had already begun restocking stores between Brisbane and Gladstone with northern centres to follow from tonight.
However, she warned it would still take some days to restock some centres, especially in the state’s far north, and some supplies would be unavailable due to supplier issues.
“It’s going to take weeks to get back to normal levels,” she said.
She said the town of Kingaroy, north west of Brisbane, still cut off by floodwaters, was now the primary point of concern as the local store was running short on supplies.
St George residents affected by last week’s inundation are delaying their clean-up efforts with more floodwater on its way to the town.
Balonne Shire Mayor Donna Stewart told the Toowoomba Chronicle water was expected to peak at up to 13.2 metres early next week.
“There won’t be much cleaning up going on,” Cr Stewart said.
“People are waiting for the next peak to come.”
Roads in and around the Brisbane CBD are beginning to re-open today, prompting a reminder from police for drivers to exercise caution.
There have been reports of minor traffic crashes as people return to work, their homes and businesses.
“We’d like to remind motorists that road conditions are not at their best with pot holes, wash outs and slippery surfaces not to mention debris that may be across the roads,” said disaster coordinator assistant commissioner Peter Martin.
“All non-essential travel in flood affected areas should be limited.”
Gold Coast United’s clash against the Newcastle Jets on January 22 will be free to all, with supporters asked to make a donation to the flood relief appeal.
Tickets will be available from Ticketek, according to the Courier Mail.
Gold Coast United vice-captain Michael Thwaite said he felt privileged that the team could play a part in the relief effort.
“If we can help to put a few smiles back on people’s faces and raise some money then we will all be delighted about that.”
Dalby’s fuel supplies have been replenished after a convoy of supply trucks rolled into town under police escort.
Three large fuel tankers from Toowoomba delivered thousands of litres of fuel to waiting service stations, which led to the local disaster co-ordination group lifting enforced restrictions on fuel purchases.
More than 200 people are involved in searching the Lockyer Valley and the search will continue into next week.
Mayor Steve Jones said the town of about 300 to 400 people looked as if it had been hit by a tsunami.
“You’ve got cars up in the trees, metres off the ground, whole buildings taken off the stumps and moved in some cases almost kilometres,” he told Channel Ten.
One of the 15 people killed in the floods was found 80km downstream from where they were reported missing, which authorities say demonstrates the complexity of emergency operations.
Queensland Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts made the announcement at a press conference this afternoon.
He has also issued a stern warning against looting. Under the criminal code, the penalty doubles to 10 years in a disaster situation.
Police are asking members of the public to stay out of the Ipswich CBD unless absolutely essential.
Emergency workers have reported heavy traffic congestion which is hampering their efforts.
A Bundaberg man has told of finding human ashes in the wake of the Queensland flooding.
Clayton Morris, a resident of Riverdale Caravan Park, discovered an urn containing the remains and hopes to find its owner.
“I was trying to see what I could save before the water came up again this morning,” he told the NewsMail.
“I kicked something very hard and as I went to pick it up, I saw that it was an urn of someone’s ashes.”
It is believed the ashes belonged to a male resident of the park.
“It’ll mean the world to him – that was his wife.
Dalby residents remain on the toughest water restrictions, after the town’s water treatment plant was flooded for the second time in three weeks and has been shut down.
The Condamine River flows from Warwick and Toowoomba, and is continuing to rise despite floodwaters receding in Dalby.
Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown advises residents that Level Six restrictions remain in force, with use limited to absolutely essential purposes with no outside use or flood clean up permitted.
“This is slightly lower than the previous flood, but will still severely impact upon the town’s water supply and Council again desperately requires residents to cut back their water use.”
He strongly urged Dalby residents to use water for essential purposes only until further notice.
“Town water definitely must not be used for flood clean up.”
Water carting will commence today to supplement the town supply.
The Wivenhoe Dam on the Brisbane River will be releasing a high volume of 3,500 cubic meters per second for the next five to six days in preparations for next Friday’s king tide, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says.
In Goondiwindi, 62 airlifted from hospitals and nursing homes and a helicopter is pre-positioned in the area. 100 residents are in evacuation centres.
Search and rescue continues in the Lockyer Valley, with the majority of properties anticipated to be resupplied with electricity today.
A central Queensland man is warning others not to enter floodwaters lest they become ill like him.
Trevor Breadley told ABC he is among four people from Theodore, west of Bundaberg in southern Queensland, who have been hospitalised with flood-related infections.
“I’d like to warn people not to go in flood water unnecessarily – that’s how I got this bug,” he said.
“Doctors are fighting frantically trying to find a name on it and a cure for it – it’s some soil-borne, water-carrying infection.”
A Sunshine Coast animal rehabilitation centre has been inundated with babies, the Noosa News reported.
The Eumundi Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is caring for about 300 birds, lizards, turtles, possums and joeys among the animals that have been rescued.
Gill Brownhill, who runs the rehabilitation centre, told the Noosa News many animals were ready to be released but disastrous weather had hindered those plans.
Ms Brownhill said there had been a huge inundation of baby kookaburras with about 40 brought dropped off in recent weeks.
Police deputy commissioner Ian Stewart says three people – two men and a woman – were arrested overnight for looting.
The trio were caught loading goods into a boat in Brisbane.
Mr Stewart said it was “very disturbing” that people were looting, but said police were proactively patrolling the state’s streets and waterways.
He reiterated that civilians should not risk their safety in floodwaters.
Protecting property from potential looters was a job for police, he said.
An evacuation centre has been opened at Goondiwindi and residents in low-lying areas are being advised to make their way to the showgrounds.
Bureau hydrologist Ian Rocca told the Brisbane Times water levels were at 10.64 metres and will continue to rise to a record peak level of 10.85 metres and possibly higher after noon.
Goondiwindi mayor Graeme Scheu told AAP he was confident the flood levees would hold.
But it will be a case of wait-and-see.
“The levee bank is designed for 11 metres. We are expecting this to hold but we are in uncharted territory,” Mr Scheu said.
A mine sweeper has been requested from the Australian Defence Force to search Morton Bay for debris that has washed down the Brisbane River, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.
Around 600 military personnel have been brought into the state, where they are helping to resupply isolated towns and assisting police. More personnel are to be deployed in Brisbane and Ipswich.
The Bremer River is falling – it is currently at 10.1m at Ipswich.
Premier Anna Bligh is urging people to wear their gumboots and be aware of hidden dangers in floodwater.
Even in ankle-deep water, broken glass and other dangerous items could cause serious injury and infection, she warned.
She said 900 people were still in evacuation centres in Ipswich. Efforts are underway to open Ipswich Motorway.
In Moggill many have been isolated and cut off from power.
The southern Queensland town of Dirranbandi, west of Goondiwindi, has been cut off by flood waters and will be isolated until next month.
The town has not yet been flooded, she said.
Flood waters at Condamine will peak in the weekend, the second largest flood on record.
The Queensland border town of Goondiwindi is also preparing for record flood levels that threaten to breach its levees.
Some evacuations have already began at Goondiwindi, which has a population of 6000.
In Brisbane, the River has receded to 2.5m and below. Ten buildings remain without power in the CBD. It is unlikely to be operational until next week.
Queensland police have advised flood-affected residents and businesses to have a licensed gas fitter check their lines and connections.
Disconnections may have occurred for safety reasons before the floods.
And Brisbane City Council is asking people not to bring sandbags back into council depots just yet. Instead they should hold on to them for now and the council will organise facilities in the next few days.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told ABC Radio this morning 60 schools and 86 kindergartens and childcare centres across the state have been damaged in the floods.
“We are determined to have schools open on the normal day one of the school year,” she said.
Health authorities and the grocery industry have warned residents returning to their homes to bin tainted food.
The same advice applied to food that had been in a refrigerator for more than 24 hours during power cuts.
“The other thing that is important to do is to get rid of any food that has come into contact with floodwaters,” Queensland Health chief Jeanette Young told ABC Television .
“Because we don’t want people to get food poisoning after everything else.”
The Australian Food and Grocery Council provided the same advice.
“Anything that’s being flood-affected, gone under water has to be thrown out,” chief executive Kate Carnell said.
Authorities are providing skips in suburban streets to take bags of tainted food.
There are still 66,000 properties without power in Brisbane and surrounding areas – power has been restored to 170,000.
Today buses are running today on a modified Sunday timetable. More than than 160 routes are running while 25 routes have been suspended. Check translink.com.au for more.
Queensland police say additional police are being deployed to the flood-hammered Lockyer Valley town of Grantham to assist the community as people start to return home.
And Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman is appealing for owners of plant and equipment to volunteer in the clean-up of the city’s streets as the floods recede.
The job would take all day at least, Mr Newman said.
“The priority is the main arterials today.”
Work on the back streets would probably start in earnest on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m calling on people who want to volunteer private plant and equipment,” he said.
“We’ll pay for the diesel if you’ll volunteer your time. Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll contact you, hopefully today, and we’ll try and then give you a job. We’d appreciate offers of support.”
Bread is proving to be as precious as gold in Marlborough, the Fraser Coast Chronicle reported this morning.
A convoy of supplies was escorted through back routes by police, on the way north to restock towns suffering shortages.
But the trucks had been stuck by the side of the road south of Gympie for days, so any perishables like fruit, vegetables and milk did not make it through.
Foodworks manager Nick Henselheit told the Fraser Coast Chronicle his store managed to get a delivery of mixed groceries including flour, toilet paper and pet food, but no bread.
“The Buttercup bread factory in Brisbane is under water, and their Burleigh factory can’t produce enough; Tip-Top still can’t get their bread through,” Mr Henselheit said.
“It could be a couple of days before we work out where it will come from.”
The bread shortage is working in favour of local bakers, however, who told the paper they are selling it straight from the oven.
“Our bread is going out the door red hot,” one baker said. “We can’t even slice it before it’s sold.”
In Gladstone, the in-demand item is milk, the Gladstone Observer reported.
A milk truck was being unloaded at the Woolworths in Goondoon Street yesterday afternoon, but as staff were loading it on the shelves, customers were taking it off again.
Customers were restricted to two bottles each.
11.39am: The Goondiwindi Regional council says businesses in the town will trade as normal today, despite flood waters creeping slowly higher this morning.
At 8am (11am NZST) the MacIntyre River was at 10.64m at Goondiwindi. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has projected the river will reach 10.85m or higher later today.
Mayor Graeme Scheu told ABC Radio he was confident the 11m levee along the river, built in 1958 would hold.
“That to me was never a great problem,” he said.
The previous flood peak record at the town is 10.6m, which was reached during a 1996 flood.
“This is the greatest volume of water that has ever flown down the MacIntyre River,” Mr Scheu said this morning.
The flood level upstream at Kildonan was at 12.97m and falling at 7am (10am NZST), the BoM said, down from a peak of 13.05m last night.
11.17am: The Australia Socceroos will wear black armbands and there will be a moment of silence before their Asian Cup football clash against Korea Republic in Qatar tomorrow morning (NZST Time), in memory of those who have lost their lives in the Queensland floods.
11.03am: Wear gumboots not “thongs”. That’s the message from Queensland Premier Anna Bligh as people get stuck into the big clean up across the flood-ravaged state.
Ms Bligh told ABC Radio the residing floodwaters will leave behind an “unbelievable stench”.
“It smells like that because it has bad things in it,” she said.
The flood waters will contain everything from farm run-off to storm water and sewage.
“You need to protect yourself when you get in there for the clean up,” she said.
Meanwhile, Michael Ross of the Royal Automotive Club of Queensland told ABC Radio there is no threat to fuel supplies in Brisbane so there is no need for people to panic buy.
10.33am: Rockhampton police have charged a 26-year-old Koongal man with two charges of unregulated high risk activity and two of obstructing police after he allegedly jumped into a flooded river in Rockhampton.
Police said the man climbed onto the Fitzroy Bridge and jumped into the Fitzroy River just before midnight last night.
Water police and Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Swift Water Rescue searched the river for the man, who was later seen running away.
The man is believed to have been involved in the same activity the night before, police said.
He will appear in Rockhampton Magistrates Court today.
10.03am: The Australian Business Traveller has contacted all the major airlines flying to and from Brisbane Airport to find out the exact details of their change policy following the Queensland floods.
Most airlines are waiving their fees for changing flights. Full policies can be read here.
9.52: Australia Post is advising mail delivery into and out of flood affected regions of Queensland has been “severely impacted and subject to major delays”.
Australia Post said it would continue to transport letters to the northern regions for delivery to those areas that are still accessible, but with air freight capacity limited, essential supplies will take precedence, so mail may take longer to get through.
“With major roads to the north blocked, we are using sea to ship parcels from Sydney to Townsville for all areas from Rockhampton north and west,” the company said on its website.
Letters are reaching Rockhampton and Mackay via air, as roads to the north are expected to be restricted for at least another week. Access to Toowoomba is also restricted, but deliveries of local products within the region are continuing.
Many parts of the Grafton catchment area cannot be delivered to due to the Pacific Highway being blocked, while delivery within Brisbane will be delayed where roads are blocked.
As of yesterday, more than 70 post offices in Queensland are closed.
9.34am: The Australian Institute of Architects has started a blog to enable its members from across the country to offer assistance and support to members in flood-affected Queensland.
“You may be able to offer office space, or accommodation, electrical equipment or internet access,” the blog reads.
“You may be able to head to Queensland and help with cleaning up after the water subsides.”
9.17am: Around 40 people are now feared to have died when a wall of water smashed into the tiny Lockyer Valley community of Grantham, The Queensland Times reported this morning.
The official disaster death toll is 15, but residents of the town and police sources have told the paper they expect the number of confirmed deaths to soar in the next few days.
The number of missing across the entire Lockyer Valley stands at 61. The Australian Defence Force arrived in the town yesterday to help the search for victims of the flood.
A local woman told The Queensland Times: “There are still dozens of people that haven’t been found”.
“After experiencing first-hand the ferocity of the water that came through here … it’s unlikely they are still alive.
It’s awful to say that. They are our friends and family, but we need to face the facts.”
9.11am: As flood levels subside in Ipswich the true extent of the damage is being revealed, with the repair bill tipped to pass the A$100 million (NZ$130m) mark.
Some residents who evacuated houses on Tuesday and Wednesday were yesterday able to see their homes and businesses for the first time with the Bremer River slowly starting to recede. As of 5.42am (8.42am NZST) today, the river was at 10.6m.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale told The Queensland Times the repair and clean-up bill for the city, including roads and infrastructure, would be in excess of $100 million.
9.01am: Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced the State Government will provide free public transport for a week from today to help with the initial flood recovery in South East Queensland.
“Our public transport network is vital to the region’s recovery,” Ms Bligh said.
“Many people don’t have cars, and many others have lost them in the floods.
“We want to help as much as possible and making the network free for a week will keep unnecessary cars off the road, help people do some shopping and get around to help others if needed.”
Minister for Transport Rachel Nolan said the measure was intended to assist the flood recovery.
“Let me be clear. This isn’t a ticket to rubberneck. It remains the case that non-essential travel is not encouraged,” she said.
Ms Nolan said planned fare rises would still go ahead on January 22 as additional state funds would be required to rebuild the damaged transport network.
– NZ HERALD STAFF
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