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Queensland

Jan 12, 2011

'Events don't unfold hour-by-hour, but minute-by-minute': QLD floods

Crikey live blog: 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 there was one small piece of wonderful news...

This post is no longer being updated.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.

More sad news from ABC 612:

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.

wivenhow

The devasted town of Grantham.

grantham

grantham2

In downtown Toowoomba.

rockhampton1

rockhamtpn2

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a women who happened to be house sitting in Toowoomba this week (obviously the numbers of dead and missing are a little outdated):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.

wheel

And two hours ago, the Riverside Expressway under QUT, by @mcphailtom.

riverside

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:

pool

Southbank is looking grim, notes this photo by @katie_mac.

westbankThe Pat Rafter Tennis Arena is also affected by the flooding, notes the @ATPWorldTour.

stadiumAn Atlantisesque photo of the Eagle Street Pier, posted by @NataliePeluso

atlantis

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:

kevin

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.”

There’s also a report in today’s NY Times:

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.

All residents in the Brisbane CBD are being asked by the council to find alternative accommodation:

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.

And if you’re just sitting at home soaking up the media saturation coverage with a cynical eye, then perhaps crack out the booze and play the Queensland Flood Channel 9 News Drinking Game.

Take one drink IF:

  1. The news reporter says INUNDATED
  2. The news reporter says UNPRECEDENTED
  3. The news reporter says EVACUATION
  4. The news reporter says CAPACITY
  5. The news reporter is standing in water whilst reporting
  6. The news reporter makes reference to 1974 floods
  7. 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)

3pm Jason 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”)

suncorp

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.

qldlibrary

Outside the Stamford in Brisbane.

stamford

The rental bike system in Mary Street, near Albert Street.

maryst

The floating restaurant Drift cafe, formerly known as Oxley’s On the River is now drifting down the Brisbane River, posted on Twitter by @mrittz.

oxleys

This photo from @katelhunter provides some comic relief. The swim school is located at Indooroopilly on the Brisbane River.

swim

12:00 pm For a concerning look at the projected modelling for Brisbane’s flooding, check out this:

brismap

Anyone needing flood maps for the Brisbane area should head straight to this website. While the Brisbane City Council website has the same maps, their website has at times failed.

Contrary to myths floating around the internet, the Ipswich water supply has not been cut off, announced the brilliant Queensland Police Media Unit.

But for those needing to travel, there are issues with Brisbane’s public transport, with public transport service to be wound down from 1pm, announce TransLink.

Due to Police advice to stay away from the Brisbane CBD, we advise passengers to avoid non-essential travel today and to stay home where possible in the difficult weather conditions.

Bus and train services may be delayed or diverted, and ferry services are cancelled.

Bus and train services are continuing to run where possible, however passengers planning to use public transport should check the status of their intended service.

Check service updates for current bus, train and ferry information.

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?

frog rides snake

10:30am

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.

Centres are at:
9 Redfern Street, Balmoral
7 Brockman Street, Stafford
Jennings Street, Zillmere
252 Curtin Avenue West, Eagle Farm
66 Wilston Road, Newmarket

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:

southbank11

Also, what was the Queensland University of Technology City Cat stop.

qut

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.

Queensland_floods_2_600px

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.

bomflood

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 crew@volunteeringqld.org.au. 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

  • When the SES Helicopter is shown.
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    91 thoughts on “‘Events don’t unfold hour-by-hour, but minute-by-minute’: QLD floods

    1. Michael R James

      Here in the down-river suburbs of New Farm, Teneriffe and Newstead, as I predicted here yesterday, so far we haven’t got our feet wet. Overnight the river did not even break the banks. In fact Eves Restaurant right on the river is open for breakfast as usual.
      But the river is high, at about 0.5m off the banks even though this is peak low tide. Thus one would expect it to breach at the next high tide, in about 4 hours.
      It is bright and sunny, just like it was in 1974 just prior to the full flood hitting. Of course if it doesn’t rain another drop the Brisbane river valley will continue to deliver flood water for days to come.

    2. sickofitall

      They say 5 states could be under. A land of flood and drought indeed.

    3. IJ

      We are witnessing through pictures on TV and internet, the tragedy unfolding in Queensland /NSW due to floods. Last evening, prayers were conducted in Blackburn Sikh Temple in Melbourne for well being of all those affected in the crisis.

      Blackburn Sikh Temple is collecting donations for the victims of these flood waters in Queensland and Northern NSW. We Aussies have always raised our hands when there is human crisis anywhere on the planet. Now is the opportunity for us to dig deep in our pockets to help our own, right in our backyard.

      Please donate to charities of your choice. Some of the links are as below. Before you donate, do verify credentials of these sites.

      http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html
      http://www.thepremier.qld.gov.au/initiatives/disaster…/donations.aspx
      qldfloods.org/ This site has all the information relating to Queensland Floods
      http://www.redcross.org.au/

      Thank you and best wishes!

    4. Tamo

      And as the hours and days pass and the water returns to its home the debate will start.

      The politically minded with attribute fault to the government, either this one or its predecesor.
      The religious will find the reasons in the Bible and the faults in our lives.
      The Greens will dam(n) the deniers.
      The capitalists will blame the left.
      The workers will blame the Gerry Harvey.

      It will be slogans at 10 paces. Logic and civility will flow away like a flooded river and we will be up-to-our necks in abuse.

      Oh hum!

    5. Tamo

      My wife has just seen a news item in the SMH about the plight of animals and the need for funds for the RSPCA (Qld). Natually, she decided to make a donation and logged on to the website. She has been confronted with a range of irrelevant questions such as title (to be sollected from a long list), all her telephone numbers, AND HER AGE. There might even be questions that she didn’t get to. She will never know. She has just logged off to the accompanimnt of muttered slogans about the difficulty of giving money.

    6. Jenny Haines

      Maybe that snake with the frog on his back thinks he has takeaway dinner!!

    7. nadia david

      Anna Bligh has done a remarkable job of handling this disaster. She has been articulate, moderate and calm when fronting the media, and I’ve rarely seen her consult notes when asked questions. She clearly has a very clear understanding of the response to the crisis. I think she’s amazing.

      Well done, Anna. Tony might want to watch you closely to see how it’s done.

    8. Sean

      Of course, it could mean we are approaching the end of days – if the lions, wolves and leopards are to get on with the lambs, kids and calves (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25) I guess the snakes and the frogs would have to as well……..

      I wonder how fast the frog decamped when they hit land.

      Tamo you are right about all the blame nonsense – it always has to be someone’s fault. I will take away the memory that community spirit is not dead and that I had to redefine my opinion on the truly magnificent Anna Bligh.

    9. shepherdmarilyn

      Call this a flood? Pakistan had a flood. By comparison this is nothing more than a drizzle but here the people have mostly had time to prepare or leave or both.

      20,000,000 people in Pakistan did not even know it was raining heavily in the northern hills.

      Houses can be rebuilt, in places like Pakistan the houses were not much more than mud yet we have the true Aussie spirit coming out – cancel all foreign aid.

      Cancel the NBN, some are even saying the stimulus money should be recalled.

      Jesus, if this is the true spirit of Australia I don’t want anthing to do with it.

    10. Ern Malleys cat

      That ‘snake’ that the frog is on looks a hell of a lot like a floating stick to me.

      Great updates and overall coverage.

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