‘Unbelievable’ downpour hammers QLD
Residents of Townsville have been warned not to become complacent as rare patches of blue sky interrupt the one-in-100 year downpour wreaking havoc in northern Queensland.
“We have seen a couple of hundred homes now that have been inundated. We have nearly 10,000 residents without power. We’ve got about 200 people in our evacuation centres,” Mayor Jenny Hill said at a press conference this afternoon.
“I can only emphasise to people to please keep away from fast-flowing water.
“It is quite dangerous. Please heed the advice.”
Ms Hill urged residents whose homes could be at risk of flooding to prepare by bolstering their doorways with sandbags and plastic.
“I want to thank all our community for hanging tough,” she said.
Chief Superintendant Steve Munro echoed the mayor’s warnings.
“There’s more water coming. We’re probably at a halfway point,” he said.
“We’re not through this yet. There’s still a way to go.”
Supt Munro told residents not to go out unless they “really have to”.
As of 6pm last night, emergency services had conducted 28 swift water rescues and 90 assisted relocations in the area.
More than the annual rainfall has fallen on parts of Queensland in the past week, creating a disaster area stretching 700km along the coast from Cairns to Mackay.
Police, soldiers and emergency services spent Saturday doorknocking in Townsville to warn residents, who have been advised to watch out for updates on the disaster.
“If the rain continues overnight and into tomorrow, if we keep going the way we are today, we are talking about 10,000 to 20,000 homes,” Supt Munro said yesterday. He reiterated that dire “worst case scenario” today.
“I’m really imploring to the people in those vulnerable areas, start thinking now about what you are going to do.”
There are 82,000 homes in Townsville.
“We are in uncharted territory here,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said of the “unprecedented” downpour.
“But please do not panic. We have a plan, we just want you to be safe.”
This afternoon the Bureau of Meteorology warned that intense rainfall had been observed in the Ross River catchment, both upstream and around the dam. It said major flood levels were “highly likely” in the Ross River at Aplin Weir.
Earlier it issued a severe thunderstorm warning for areas around Rollingstone and Bluewater, saying the storms could lead to flash flooding.
It also extended its severe weather warning as far south as Winton, and warned residents to be watchful for potential flooding of the Ross, Herbert, Tully and Murray rivers.
The Bureau said there had been “extremely heavy falls” since 9am yesterday, with 506mm recorded at Ingham Pump Station, 415mm at Halifax, 309mm at Cardwell Gap and 271mm at South Mission Beach.
It fears there could be up to two more metres of rain before the deluge relents, potentially leading to “catastrophic” flooding.
⚠️ Severe Weather Warning extended south, now includes #Winton. A separate Severe Thunderstorm Warning for heavy falls and possible destructive wind gusts is current around #Rollingstone. Updates: https://t.co/qTbGZD8oSF pic.twitter.com/vYQonwSBr2— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld)
The monsoonal rain has already been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia, with losses estimated at $16.7 million and the worst yet to come.
Disaster assistance has been extended for communities in Townsville, Charters Towers, Palm Island, Richmond and Burdekin, the Queensland government announced on Saturday night.
It will be delivered through the jointly funded Commonwealth-Queensland Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
About 100 homes were evacuated near the bulging Ross River dam as water was released, but it was back up to 216 per cent capacity by Saturday evening.
Paul Shafer and his family lost two cars, a truck and a caravan when water was released from the dam, a risky move designed to spare the town from more widespread flooding.
He understood the decision but said it was demoralising to see the destruction at his Hermit Park park home.
“We have decided to stay rather than evacuate, we still have electricity but it will be a sleepless night ahead, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile the Courier-Mail spoke to Randall Parker, who evacuated his family on a blow-up air bed after the water level rose as high as the couch inside his unit.
“It is just unbelievable, we’ve never seen anything like it,” Mr Parker said.
“It just keeps bucketing down.”
The rain and flash flooding began a week ago, causing power and phone outages, closing roads and businesses and inundating homes.
Four tourists trapped in a car were rescued by a grazier in a helicopter after being stranded by the flooded Diamantina River near Middleton yesterday.
State Disaster Coordinator Bob Gee is urging people to stay out of the water and check emergency and weather warnings — which are updated regularly.