This post is no longer being updated. For the latest Crikey liveblog of the floods, head here.
Brisbane and Ipswich are bracing for their worst ever floods, with tens of thousands of homes at risk and fears for citizens’ safety, as the toll of dead and missing for the state-wide disaster continues to rise. The banks of the Brisbane River have broken and the flood peak will hit at 4am tomorrow. Already many suburbs are partially submerged, and 20,000 properties are likely to experience complete flooding in Brisbane.
In Ipswich the river is rising, with 1,500 properties already evacuated and over 1,000 people waiting in evacuation centres.
The death toll has risen to twelve people, the latest victims being two men found in Grantham in the Lockyer Valley. The number of missing people has been revised down to 51 people.
We will be back updating this post tomorrow.
Update: 5:45 pm Most of Brisbane’s major roads have now been closed, with the Riverside Expressway now closed. Police are asking for people to avoid driving through Brisbane.
Brisbane’s Riverwalk will be demolished: engineers declare it poses a serious safety risk. It is already partially destroyed and submerged.
A quick update of some photos available, because 60 Minutes reporter Michael Usher took some truly incredible photos from Rockhampton and the Lockyer Valley today.
The infamous Wivenhoe Dam.
The devasted town of Grantham.
In downtown Toowoomba.
Continuing on with Toowoomba, here’s a fascinating blog by a women who happened to be house sitting in Toowoomba this week (obviously the numbers of dead and missing are a little outdated):
During the rains and fog of the last few days and last night as we watched the news of this unprecedented crisis unfold before our very eyes, my emotions swayed between feeling lucky — oh so lucky, and a little un-nerved. How fate led us on a stretch of road along the Warrega highway that a few days later would be a region where 9 people die and over 60 — - some of which are whole families — are missing. How fate had us accept a house sit on top of a hill that is probaly the best place to be.
Plus, back in Brisbane:
The Brisbane Wheel rises out of the floods, from @yangwong on Twitter.
And two hours ago, the Riverside Expressway under QUT, by @mcphailtom.
5:15 pm The number of missing people has been revised down from 76 to 51 people, although “grave concerns” are held for nine of those missing, announced Neil Roberts, QLD Emergency Services Minister.
But in “a small piece of wonderful news”, QLD Police Commissioner Rob Atkinson told of how two men, in two separate incidences in the Lockyer Valley, who were thought to have been swept away by the flood waters have been found safe and sound. “One can only describe it as a miracle based on the circumstances on which they went missing,” said Atkinson.
In the latest updates on the floods, the Brisbane River is currently at 4.16 metres. The peak of 5.5 metres is still expected for 4am.
The Bremer River in Ipswich sits steady at 19.4 metres, but current modelling predicts it will rise to 20.5 metres.
It is still possible that the Moggill Ferry may be sunk to avoid further issues, but no resolution has yet been decided. This is only a possibility for The Island Party Barge and the Drift cafe. As Roberts said, “These events unfold not just hour by hour but minute by minute.”
Roberts pleaded with residents to only dial 000 in cases of life threatening emergencies, as the phone lines has been clogged. He asked residents to continue to listen to radios and take care on the roads.
The flood crisis is continuing in Chinchilla, where E.coli has been found in the flood waters and water must be boiled before drinking.
Roberts also said things are “touch and go for Goondiwindi.”
4:15 pm Brisbane’s inland beach isn’t looking so tropical, judging on a photo posted by @rohandwyer:
Southbank is looking grim, notes this photo by @katie_mac.
The Pat Rafter Tennis Arena is also affected by the flooding, notes the @ATPWorldTour.
An Atlantisesque photo of the Eagle Street Pier, posted by @NataliePeluso
While Julia Gillard expressed interest in meeting with locals in the streets of Brisbane today, it was local MP, ex-PM Kevin Rudd, who was strolling the flooded streets, chinos rolled up past his knees:
Since power cuts are occurring through Brisbane and Ispwich, authorities are warning residents to stay out of lifts, or they’ll get stuck in them. The Courier-Mail also reports:
Brisbane’s City Cat service could be offline for several months as ferry terminals will need rebuilding
Time magazine has an article on the Queensland floods.
And while the city is in the throes of preparation today, residents like Pedler are wondering why some basic precautions weren’t taken earlier. He says he works in a government structure, where one office in the complex bears a flood mark as a reminder of the events of 1974. “We always used to laugh at that and think why on earth would you build something below a floodline,” said Pedler. “They obviously thought that a flood like that would never happen again.”
Muddy flood waters began swamping thousands of homes and businesses in Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, and nearby townships on Wednesday as residents braced for further inundations in what has become one of Australia’s most devastating natural disasters.
3:45pm The Brisbane River has hit the first of two peaks this afternoon, at 4.5 metres. The next peak, of 5.5 metres, is due to hit at 4am tonight/early tomorrow. Due to the peak hitting in the middle of the night, authorities have suggested evacuation as soon as possible. The Ipswich flood peak is due to hit at any moment now.
Brisbane City Council advises residents living in the CBD to make arrangements to stay with friends and family as ENERGEX progressively cuts power to parts of the city and flood waters predicted to inundate city streets.
While there are no forced evacuations planned and power cuts will affect only parts of the CBD, the scale of the de-energisations means customers may not receive personal notification of cuts to their buildings.
CBD residents are urged to make alternative accommodation arrangements as soon as practical, as predicted river levels for this afternoon are likely to inundate and close CBD streets.
Restoration times and reinstatement of services to some buildings, including water supply, are dependent on the rate that floodwaters recede and the extent of damage to electrical equipment, which could take days to determine.
If you’re anywhere near Pimpama in Queensland and can cook, then baking donations are being taken to help feed the tireless SES workers until 5pm, from today. Address is: Highway Church, 351 Creek Street, Old Pac HWY, at Pimpama.
The news reporter is standing in water whilst reporting
The news reporter makes reference to 1974 floods
The news reporter says ‘Rolling Coverage’
3:30pm Basic facilities are beginning to break down across Brisbane, with the Courier-Mail reporting:
Raw sewage spewing into Brisbane River after treatment facilities broke down upstream
The Queensland Police are warning that 70,000 residents across Queensland have no power, including 56,000 in Brisbane and Ipswich. An extra 10,000 are expected to lose power in the next hour.
If you haven’t read Brisbane local John Birmingham’s column in the Brisbane Times today, I suggest you do:
The peak-hour exodus came four hours early and all of the main roads out of the city were soon crawling with traffic. Darkness at noon lent a weird, disaster movie aesthetic to the massive exit.
And everyone was talking about ‘74 - at home, at work, online with friends, in line with strangers at the supermarket as they stocked up against the prospect of a city-wide flood. In Queensland, ‘74 is shorthand, especially in Brisbane. Knowing of ‘74, understanding it and what it might mean, separates the natives from the hundreds of thousands of blow-ins who’ve arrived in the past 10 or 15 years.
It was the year of the last great flood. If cities have memories, ‘74 is a haunted memory for this city. It all but drowned. To invoke ‘74, as the mayor did after Toowoomba, was to warn the city something awful was coming. Potentially as bad as Toowoomba, possibly worse.
Continuing along the historical theme, a complete history of flooding in Brisbane — and its an extensive one — can be found over at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Again, for a full list of Brisbane suburbs at risk, click here.
For a full list of Ipswich suburbs at risk, click here.
Concerns are rising for communities along the Queensland/New South Wales border, as the water starts moving south.
3:15pm Sad news from the floods: two bodies were found in the Lockyer Valley this afternoon, taking the death toll of the floods to 12. However the number of missing persons has dropped from over 90 to 67.
(apologies this information wasn’t in the last update, there was some confusion)
3pmJason Whittaker writes: Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has delivered another briefing. As Bligh admitted “We still have a number of families who don’t know where their children are.”
She acknowledged the town of Chinchilla, north-west of Toowoomba, which is now facing rising floods for the second time. “This is a heartbreaking time for the people of Chinchilla,” Bligh said.
The flood peak in Ipswich is expected to be slightly lower than originally predicted. Water levels are currently around 19.25m, Bligh said, heading to 20.5m in the next couple of hours.
In Brisbane’s western suburbs, Gales and Goodna have been “particularly hard hit.” Closer to the city, Jindalee, Moggill and Yeronga are most affected.
The Moggill ferry, which runs on a wire across the river, has broken free from one of its guides. Crews have been dispatched to potentially sink or destroy the vessel before it breaks free and becomes a hazard. Other barges in the Brisbane River could also be sunk as a precaution.
In the city, much of the CBD has closed down. Buses to the city have ceased but train services are running where they can on a public holiday-type timetable. Numerous roads are flooded, including the Inner City Bypass. Tolls have been suspended on the Logan Motorway and Gateway Motorway until further notice.
As at 1pm local time, 3,585 people are formally registered in evacuation centres across Brisbane and Ipswich; 400 of those are in Brisbane. The numbers are expected to swell to 2500-3000.
All hospitals are operational and fears that the Wesley Hospital would have to close have been allayed. But all non-urgent surgery in Brisbane hospitals has been delayed.
Meanwhile, Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman says power has now been cut to some 70,000 homes with more residents affected over the next few hours.
There is no more news on the search and rescue operation in Toowoomba. Police say they are now working with the coroner in the area.
12:45 pm There are some truly incredibly photos coming out of the floods. From Seven News, the Suncorp Stadium, looking more swimming pool than football oval (there was a minor fire here earlier, but police say it was just a “small fire… in isolated transformer room”)
The lower floors of the Queensland State Library. One can only imagine how well books and documents cope with flooding… The following three photos come from Jono Haysom, who is posting some incredible photos from Brisbane.
Disruptions are expected to continue due to bad weather, flooding and king tides.
11:30 am “We’ve woken up to a very surreal experience. The sky is blue, we are facing a beautiful Queensland day… but do not take any comfort from the fact that we have blue sky here this morning,” warns Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, as she outlined the latest flood news.
The death toll from the floods remains at ten, despite reports to the contrary. Number of missing is now “over 90”, said Bligh. However, since the weather is clear today an extensive search and rescue operation will commence in the Lockyer Valley.
The search and rescue operation will be a “very difficult, very urgent and occasionally heartbreaking task”, announced PM Julia Gillard, who joined Bligh for the latest press conference in Brisbane.
Already 1,500 properties have been evacuated in Ipswich and 1,200 people are in the 10 evacuation centres there.
Ipswich’s flood levels reached 18.9 metres at 7:30am today. In “slightly good news” the peak of 22 metres has been revised to 20.5 metres, said Bligh. It was 20.7 metres in 1974. When the peak comes, 4,000 properties are expected to be affected.
Pontoons and boats are floating down the Brisbane river. The flood levels in Brisbane are at 3.1 metres rising. Bligh warns that while the river is rising slowly this morning, it will be quicker after lunch. It should peak today at 4.5 metres and rise to 5.5 metres tomorrow morning at 4am, where it will then stay until Saturday. In 1974 it peaked at 5.45 metres. The flood levels will be “1974 proportions and slightly higher,” advises Bligh.
Bligh also noted that when making those comparisons between the 2011 and the 1974 floods, that people need to remember that those cities are vastly different places, with a significantly higher population, more dense suburban areas and new suburbs, including inner city Brisbane areas.
The numbers of expected flooding in Brisbane are serious. 2,100 streets. 19,700 residences will flood across their entire property. 3,500 commercial properties will experience flooding across their entire property.
In Brisbane 182 people are already registered at the RNA Showgrounds evacuation centre, with a new evacuation centre opening at the QEII stadium on the south side of Brisbane. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane is apparently in talks with churches to see if church halls and church facilities can be used to house those in need of evacuation.
Residents should stay at home and avoid going travelling on the streets. “Do not travel if you do not have to. It is a danger to the rest of the population to have people out travelling unnecessarily”, said Bligh. “This incidwent is not a tourist event. This is a deeply serious natural disaster.”
Traffic management plans have been put into place and its expected many traffic lights in Brisbane will not function as electricity gets cut off.
It’s not just Brisbane and Ipswich battling these floods today. Dalby has rising flood waters and 125 people in an evacuation centre. Chinchilla is expected to receive a flood peak higher than the floods it experienced ten days ago. Condamine was completely evacuated last night. The water at Goondiwindi, a town of 5,00 people, is just half a metre from the levees. Evacuations are also occurring in the tiny town of Texas, population 600. Water in Rockhampton is finally dropping. As is Gympie, but that water will then hit Maryborough. Flooding is also expected in Bundaberg.
As Bligh noted, many of these towns are facing floods for the second time in two weeks and Brisbane and Ipswich residents should “draw inspiration and courage” from them.
“I can say, honestly, I do know what it is like to be worrying about your own family,” said an emotional Bligh, as she explained that her own mother is now staying at Bligh’s home, since her own house was at risk.
Gillard also announced emergency payments will be made available, with 10,000 payments, worth $17 million already made. Gillard was careful to stress that these are just initial emergency payments and not for rebuilding homes and business. Obviously they will come later.
In more positive news: here is a frog riding a snake in the floods. Will this be the new Sam the Koala?
Flood affects journos too, writes Jason Whittaker in today’s Media Briefs:
The big guns of breakfast TV are broadcasting through the morning, perched atop Kangaroo Point cliffs overlooking the Brisbane CBD and along the disappearing banks of the Brisbane River. Karl Stefanovic heads Nine’s coverage (after broadcasting well into the night yesterday), while Melissa Doyle cut short her holidays to join Larry Emdur (that’s the former game show host who Nine now wants to poach to anchor its breakfast news) on an extended Sunrise. ABC1 has flicked the switch to Aunty’s 24-hour news station, with Joe O’Brien water-side in Brisbane.
Brisbane’s only daily paper The Courier-Mail is headquartered at Bowen Hills, one of the inner-city suburbs expected to face flooding throughout the day. Its online rival, Fairfax’s Brisbane Times, has already moved out of its riverside office tower in the CBD and has journalists working in the field, at home and out of stablemate 4BC’s Cannon Hill studios. The ABC continues to work out of multiple offices while its new Southbank headquarters is built (the riverside construction site will go under today), with the all-important Local Radio studios in Toowong also in flood’s way. The station briefly lost phone services this morning and had to redirect listener calls.
As the 1974 flood comparisions continue, it’s interesting to note that Brisbane has over one million more residents today.
10:00 am The Brisbane River has just broken at Yeronga, with 20,000 properties under threat, reports the ABC. “Hundreds of homes are underwater”, said Sky News, who noted that their information came by ABC local radio.
The Brisbane City Council are looking for more volunteers:
Brisbane City Council have asked if anyone would like to lend a hand filling sandbags.
People should preferably wear work boots and high visibility clothing. If volunteers do not have work boots then enclosed shoes must be worn. Light coloured clothing is also acceptable is you do not have high visibility.
Photos are coming out of Brisbane’s rising waters. This was Riverside Green at Southbank, at 7am this morning, taken by Indigo Willing on Twitter:
Also, what was the Queensland University of Technology City Cat stop.
9:30 am A “senior emergency official” says that 30 people are believed to be dead, according to unconfirmed reports in The Australian and also Sky News. Premier Anna Bligh announced yesterday the suspected number of deaths was at least double the current toll.
Ipswich is in immediate danger, with parts of the city already submerged. A flood peak of 21.5 metres is expected to hit the Bremer River in Ipswich at 11am today, a rise of five metres in five hours.
Yesterday afternoon the main street was dry, today it is underwater.
As Ipswich copes with the rising flood waters, reports of looting in flood affected areas has infuriated locals. ”If I find anybody looting in our city they will be used as flood markers,” declared Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.
Up in Brisbane, a staggering 90,000 Brisbane properties are expected to be flood affected in the coming days, as the Wivenhoe Dam reached 190% capacity last night. The peak for Brisbane is expected early tomorrow morning.
Electricity would be cut to 100,000 properties in Brisbane, warned Energex.
This is the second time in two weeks that Condamine, Warwick, Chinchilla and Dalby communities are facing floods.
Newspapers around the nation focused on the floods, with one photo of a toddler getting evacuated a popular choice for newspaper editors. Click on the image to enlarge.
Seven more Australian Defence Force helicopters will be brought into Queensland for search and rescue efforts, PM Julia Gillard announced this morning, bringing the helicopter total to 15.
Among the 10 already confirmed dead are Steven and Sandra Matthews, the parents who hoisted their children to safety in a manhole in their home’s ceiling in Spring Bluff. When their son turned around to help them up, the flood waters had already taken them away. A touching obit of the couple can be found here:
The Matthews moved to Spring Bluff six years ago to establish their own electrical and air-conditioning business.
An ordained minister and devoutly religious man, Steven was also a keen motorcycle enthusiast and sportsman, winning gold in his age division for weightlifting at the 2009 World Masters Games.
A look at today’s BOM rainfall map shows the relentless rain hitting Queensland. If you want to keep up to date with other Queensland flood maps, this website is a great resource.
With flash flooding predicted for Melbourne today, more than 1,700 evacuated in NSW due to flooding and bushfires in Western Australia, it’s a hectic week for Mother Nature in Oz.
Volunteers in Brisbane have spent much of the night sandbagging. If you would like to join in volunteer efforts in Brisbane, call 3002 7600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For those flood affected and wondering what to do with their pets, find information here.
For those overseas, ABC 24 has temporarily lifted its geo-block to cover the flooding disaster. For those wishing to donate to the Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal, managed by the Red Cross, head here.
Other emergency numbers:
Flood Emergency Information and Disaster Recovery Hotline: 1800 173 349
State Emergency Service: 132 500
Lifeline telephone counselling crisis line: 13 11 14