'Situation continues to deteriorate': QLD floods
The death of four-year-old boy swept into the floods at Marburg during a rescue attempt of his family takes the latest flood death toll to ten, announced Premier Anna Bligh.
Jan 11, 2011
The death of four-year-old boy swept into the floods at Marburg during a rescue attempt of his family takes the latest flood death toll to ten, announced Premier Anna Bligh.
A torrent of water swept through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley yesterday afternoon, devastating the region with flash flooding and leaving nine dead and 66 missing. Brisbane, Ipswich and surrounding areas are preparing for flood waters. Crikey will be updating this story tomorrow.
8:40 pm The death of four-year-old boy swept into the floods at Marburg during a rescue attempt of his family takes the latest flood death toll to ten, announced Premier Anna Bligh.
The missing persons number has risen to 78, with “grave concerns” for 18 of those people. All of those missing are in the Toowoomba/Lockyer region.
4:30 pm “The situation continues to deteriorate”, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told a recent press conference, as she confirmed the death of one other person (not the five recently reported). This takes the death toll in the Toowomba/Lockyer floods to nine people, with 66 still missing.
The death toll could double, warns Bligh, with the 66 missing mainly in Grantham and Murphys Creek. Grave concerns are held for citizens in Murphys Creek, as emergency workers have unable to enter Murphys Creek due to risky conditions and overflowing creeks.
Current modelling shows that this flood will be worse than the infamous 1974 floods in both Brisbane and Ipswich, says Bligh. “Upswich and Brisbane are facing their greatest threat and toughest test in 35 years.”
Flood levels in Brisbane are expected to rise to three metres overnight, reaching 4.5 metres on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday the floods are expected to overtake the 1974 record of 5.45 metres, says Bligh.
In Ipswich flood levels are around the 18-19 metre mark, expected to peak during Wednesday at 21-22 metres. In comparison, the 1974 mark was 20.4 metres. 14 people lost their lives in the 1974 floods.
However, fears for 50 people in a Grantham primary school seem unfounded, with news that 60 people are there in a safe area and will stay there for the time being.
Bligh announced that press conferences will be held every two hours throughout this evening and tomorrow — and perhaps longer, depending on what happens — to keep the public informed and updated of the latest weather and flood levels. The critical problem is that rain is continuing to fall, resulting in rapid changes to emergency plans and models as flood levels rise above expected levels.
“We are facing one of our toughest ever tests. We will only pass this test if we are patient, patient when waiting on hold and listen to instructions. Now is not the time to panic, it’s the time to reach out to each other and listen to our emergency workers.”
4:00 pm “We are in uncharted territory”, declared Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, as he warned that 6,500 Brisbane properties in 80 suburbs will experience “significant flooding” of over half a metre or more in coming days.
Thursday will be “the worst time” for flooding in Brisbane, and residents need to be warned and start preparing their properties for likely flooding.
“We’re going to provide the most accurate and up to date information but I want to stress that the situation has changed remarkably from hour to hour.”
An evacuation centre has been set up at the RNA Showgrounds at Bowen Hills for those wishing to evacuate of their own accord, but Newman did recommend residents stay at home where possible or stay with family and friends.
Newman spoke of the 1893 flood, where Brisbane experienced three floods in three weeks.
The Brisbane council has revised down the number of properties expected to experience severe flooding from over 8,000 businesses and homes down to 6,500. Figures currently expect 16,000 properties to suffer partial flooding.
A list of Brisbane suburbs at risk has been released by the council. Flooding is expected in these suburbs in the coming days.
Fig Tree Pocket
Despite high demand, Brisbane City Council has advised that sandbags are still on offer to residents.
Sandbags are available for collection at the following locations:
Darra Works Depot, Shamrock Street, Darra
Morningside Works Depot, 9 Redfern Street, Morningside
Zillmere Works Depot, 33 Jennings Street, Zillmere
Newmarket SES Depot, 66 Wilston Road, Newmarket
BCW Stafford/Kedron, 7 Brockman Street, Kedron
Plus, these photos of people panic buying in supermarkets and empty shelves were bottled water once sat, posted on Twitter by Sam Hegarty, show the level of concern in Brisbane today.
A look at the latest photos from Twitter on the floods.
Photos from Brisbane, posted by @nathan_m. Riverwalk:
Traffic in a standstill over Story Bridge.
@TrevyJames on Twitter posted a picture of a jetty floating down the river.
And of Southbank
Also, Sky News reports that 1,700 people are stranded in NSW floods, so let’s remember it’s not just Queensland struggling today.
It has been confirmed (having said that, neither Sky News nor ABC have confirmed the reports) that five more bodies have been found in the Lockyer Valley, taking the death toll to 13 in the last 24 hours.
Still no news on the 50 people who took shelter from the floods in a primary school in Grantham. Reports are all over the place, notes Ninemsn:
There are conflicting reports of what has happened to those sheltering in the primary school with a Nine Network reporter saying 15 to 20 people have been rescued so far this morning.
But a Grantham resident told ninemsn she heard the school had been washed away.
26-year-old Jason Cubit spent the night ferrying about 100 distraught and dishevelled residents of Grantham through the dark to shelter on higher ground at the nearby Helidon Hall.
The residents had been rescued from the roofs of their houses as the flood waters rose at alarming speed to engulf the town and wreak unprecedented and unbelievable havoc.
“I made about a dozen trips until about 4am,” Mr Cubit said. “There was about 90 to 100 people in total. There were about a dozen kids, plus their cats and dogs.
“They were just climbing out of their windows and onto the roofs where they were picked up by these huge bulldozers, which were going around plucking people off all the roofs like a cherry picker.
The Brisbane River banks have broken with much of the CBD is empty as citizens are going home and seeking higher ground. There has been much debate on Twitter whether or not the Brisbane public transport system would be closing at 2pm, however latest news from Queensland Police say the public transport system is not being stopped and the Brisbane CBD has not been evacuated. Having said that, there are reports of very busy train stations and networks as people frantically try to get home.
Unconfirmed reports on Sky News saying another five bodies have been found in the Lockyer Valley.
“It has been incredible harrowing circumstances over the last 24 hours” said PM Julia Gillard, in the recent press conference about the Queensland flooding.
“I have made it very clear to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh that any resource she needs from the Australian Defence Force will be made available.”
Gillard spoke of how Black Hawk helicopters have been used for evacuations, military trucks — large enough to go where other vehicles cannot — are taking supplies around and other military supplies are being used.
Gillard confirmed that Australia has taken up an offer of New Zealand personnel, and other offers from neighbours China, East Timor, Indonesia have been made.
“We’ve seen nations donate money in the past… and we have also sourced expertise that may be strained in Australia in the past, such as disaster victim identification.” Emergency management leaders in Queensland will establish if these offers of expertise and personnel are taken up.
Gillard spoke about the “power of nature” that Australia deals with, noting how Australia was dealing with flooding in Queensland and NSW and bushfires in WA.
“To everyone who has helped so courageously and so consistently, I give my thanks.”
“I would like to say to the people of Queensland that I understand the last few days have been very harrowing and there are more dark days ahead. But the spirit of Queensland means that people face this with courage and determination…To the people of Queensland, Australians are thinking of you and anything that the Australian nation can do to assist the people of Queensland in these difficult days, we will do.”
Suburbs across Brisbane are being evacuated, including businesses in Fortitude Valley, New Farm and West End.
The banks of the Brisbane river have broken. These two photos tweeted from Simon Groth from the State Library just an hour apart show how quickly the water is rising.
Caboolture is also being evacuated, with this image being shown on the Queensland Police Facebook page. At first it was just low-lying areas, now it is all residents.
Low lying areas of Strathpine are also being evacuated.
300 people are being evacuated by air in Forest Hill, says Queensland Police.
The amount of water involved in the flooding is more than the floods of 1974, reports the Courier-Mail. But those floods were pre the Wivenhoe Dam being built.
While sand bags are a great way to stop flooding, there seems to be a wait on them:
“A 2 hour line up for sandbags at some Brisbane government centres,” tweeted Brad Wood.
And concerning news from the Courier-Mail.
They’re tying up the crocs at Australia Zoo lest the floods get high enough for them to swim away.
Just in case you needed any further reasons to stay out of the water…
This photo from @popebrentus on Twitter shows the Queensland State Library right on the edge of the flood waters. It was taken in Southbank, from George St.
There are also reports that Vodafone has stopped working in Queensland.
“Just been told Vodafone is down in all of Queensland for an undetermined period. Check back in 24 hours, I’m told without apology,” tweeted News Ltd technology editor Jen Dudley-Nicholson.
Optus is also apparently down. Emergency services have apparently asked that only emergency calls are made as lines are getting blocked.
Low-lying areas of Caboolture and Strathpine are now getting evacuated.
Latest news is that Brisbane River has broken its banks. Updates to come shortly.
Queensland Police is constantly updating its Facebook page with warnings about emergency alerts. Latest ones include:
An Emergency Alert has been issued for flash flooding in Forest Hill. All residents should warn neighbours, secure your belongings and evacuate to the School of Arts Hall, Railway Street, Forest Hill.
Anyone with a boat currently on the Brisbane River, if it is safe to do so it is advised to move it out to either Moreton Bay or Bramble Bay. Please exercise extreme caution as substantial debris has fallen into parts of the river. Only move your boat if it is safe to do so. Do not risk your life to save your property.
Reports are coming in about businesses in West End, Brisbane being evacuated.
Several days ago Nick Earls wrote a piece in the New York Times that is worth a revisit if you missed it the first time around. Particularly poetic since it was even before the latest flooding.
All maps of Queensland are deceptive. They show inland plains crossed by rivers, always colored blue. It’s tempting to imagine riverboats hauling freight, green fields stretching out from either bank, industrial towns and cities drawing water for their factories.
What the maps don’t reveal is that the rivers are often only possibilities. Many are dry for years, their waters long since soaked up by the parched ground and left as a chain of water holes.
The maps also don’t say that, every few years, the rivers flood. Once in a generation, they cover the land. And sometimes, like now, they tear the state apart.
Mayor of Ipswich: Peak now expected at 19m at noon – get out now! CBD went under in 74, this could be worse.
West End in Brisbane is already experiencing flooding in its low-lying streets and businesses near the Brisbane River are reportedly being evacuated. The Brisbane City Council suggests residents check out the flood maps for their suburb so they are aware of what could happen. The flag flood maps are currently unavailable on the Brisbane Council website, but can be viewed on a mirror site here, however “This is a temporary and partial archive of flood flag maps for the Brisbane City region. It will be pulled down once the floods have passed or the Brisbane City Council site is back up and running.”
You can also keep up to date on the Queensland government traffic and travel information website.
10:55am “This weather may be breaking our hearts but it will not be breaking our will,” declared Anna Bligh in a press conference just minutes ago. But despite the recent reports, 72 is still the official number of people missing.
“As of an hour ago we have 72 missing. We are hoping and praying that those 72 got to safety overnight…given the circumstances we hold grave concerns for those unaccounted for. Many of those unaccounted are families and young children,” said Bligh.
She later added: “We do have some whole families who are this stage unaccounted for. We have already seen absolute tragedy with the 8 deaths… half of the eight were children. This took people unawares, so there was no time for people to get to safety. In all honesty, we hold very grave concerns for those unaccounted for and we are anxiously, anxiously worrying that we will see this toll rise.”
Bligh warned of the “grim and desperate” situation in the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley. “This has been a night of extraordinary events, we’ve seen acts of extraordinary bravery… we are doing our best to protect our emergency workers and we are equally doing our best to get everything we can into this region to save and rescue… What it is doing is testing our emergency response and will test us as communities and as people.”
Due to the weather conditions, there have been delays with the search and rescue teams. A helicopter was able to get into the developed areas of Helidon and Grantham and no other people have been found waiting on roofs, however it has been unable to check rural areas.
Bligh warns of rising flood levels in Ipswich, with the flood level likely to hit 16 metres. According to weather predictions and expected rain, it could hit 18 metres. One big worry is the Wivenhoe Dam, as the disaster modelling has changed. “It is a rapidly changing situation. The extent of the rainfall last night has affected all of the models” said Bligh.
Ian Stewart from the emergency maangement in QLD said “Toowoomba is fairly stable, no further deaths expected out of the CBD. Murphys Creek and Grantham area, we do expect to find further deceased people in those areas.
Yesterday’s Toowoomba flooding was an “extreme event” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s Queensland regional director, Jim Davidson. “This was towards the top of the severe flash flooding and weather scale. It was very unique.”
Bligh pleaded with residents not to do “stupid things”: “Please do not cross roads that are flooded and do not jump in this water… this water is deadly and it’s not to be played with.”
“We can replace fridges, bridges, houses… we cannot replace people” reinforced Stewart.
Weather wise, “tomorrow will be a much better day,” said Davidson.
Bligh is expecting to declare a large portion of southern Queensland as an official disaster zone in coming days. In the next 2-3 days, Brisbane and Ipswich will be the two areas to watch of concern, said Bligh.
10:30 am The Australian is reporting that the 50 people in a primary school in Grantham have been found safe. This made up a significant percentage of 72 people missing, but it is assumed Anna Bligh will update that missing number.
10:25 am Premier Anna Bligh will be holding a press conference at 10:30. We will update with footage and quotes as it becomes available.
“The Ipswich Motorway may be closed within the next two hours due to flooding in both directions,” reports Seven News in Brisbane.
9.50 am The information hotline for friends and family to call is 1300 993 191.
There are some truly gut wrenching eyewitness accounts emerging, both of rescues and tales of likely deaths. From over at The Australian:
Mr Hoddinott said two friends of his were missing after they rescued their two children from the raging torrent that smashed their house at Spring Bluff. He said the couple had time only to lift their daughter, 15, and their son, 20, up a manhole in the ceiling to safety before the raging water sucked them out of their house and swept them away. The couple’s son told how he reached the safety of the ceiling and turned around to help lift his parents up, but they were gone and water was gushing through the house.
This video via the Toowomba Chronicle I find particularly fascinating as you can see rescue workers walking and talking on mobile phones in water nearly up to their waists.
9.30 am “This is our darkest hour of the past fortnight,” declared Queensland Premier Anna Bligh at a press conference yesterday. “Mother nature has unleashed something shocking out of the Toowoomba region.”
Overnight 43 people were rescued off rooftops and many are still awaiting rescue, with a massive search and rescue operation under way. Concerns are also held for a reported 30-50 people holed up in a primary school in Grafton, who are completely isolated and un-contactable. Towns including Dalby and Chinchilla are on alert and evacuations are happening.
The flood is expected to hit Brisbane today, with a “body of floodwater larger than Sydney Harbour” threatening the city. Flood warnings have been issued for 30 Brisbane suburbs, with the Wivenhoe Dam rising quickly and expected to go over capacity.
This is addition to the 12 people already killed in the Queensland floods.
While Crikey doesn’t have any journalists stationed in Toowoomba, we’ll be piecing together a live blog across the morning with rolling updates. If you’re experiencing the floods and want to send us photos or write, please email us.
The Guardian has a brilliant interactive map of the flooded areas. Click through on this picture for the full version:
The ABC have their own community map, displaying both verified and unverified reports by locals. It has information including road closures, evacuations and where emergency services are available.
SBS also has an interactive map, with more of a news angle. It covers reported deaths and flood warnings:
To keep an eye on the weather, check out this Bureau of Meterology map.
Horrific photos of locals trying to escape the flood waters are available on a variety of sites, with some of the best including the ABC and two different galleries on the Courier-Mail. Eyewitness videos show cars being dragged away by walls of water.
A new ABC blog called After the Deluge features photos of residents’ houses as they walk through their flood-deluged homes. It makes for heartbreaking reading.
Meanwhile, sub-editors across the country have soaked up the watery puns. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Australia needs to revisit dams as a water management option, declares an editorial in The Australian. “For now, the focus must be on those devastated by the floods. But in the future, governments must look more closely at water management. Dams will not solve all our problems, but they should be given another chance.”
One critical issue with the floods is the loss of top-soil for Australia’s agriculture. “But there has been little discussion of the more fundamental issue. The rivers have been running brown. A lot of the lifeblood of this country has been gushing away in liquid mountains we don’t even see,” noted Paul Sheehan yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald. “A few sages warned that the worst thing that could happen to Australia after a decade of drought was sustained rain. “Even worse would be floods.”
If you’re wanting to donate money, try the Premiers Flood Relief Appeal, which is being looked after by the Red Cross.