Brisbane and Ipswich can breathe very small sighs of relief this morning, as the flood levels proved not as bad as originally feared. The Brisbane River peaked at 4.46 metres early this morning, over a metre less than the expected peak of 5.2 metres and less than the infamous 1974 flood. The expected peak was downgraded throughout the night from initial predictions of 5.5 metres yesterday afternooon.

Ipswich’s Bremer River peaked at 19.4 metres yesterday afternoon at 3pm — less than the 1974 flood — and is now steadily dropping. It was below 18 metres at 3am this morning.

The death toll now officially stands at 15, the latest victim an adult male near Dalby. A man was also found dead in a car in Ipswich yesterday. As the cause of death has yet to be properly established, his death is not being counted in the flood death toll yet.

The number of missing is 61.

Just like the last two days, Crikey will be updating this live blog throughout the day as news comes to hand…

Update 5:00 pm The flood levels may be dropping in Ipswich and Brisbane, but Goondiwindi is bracing for record levels of 10.85 metres, warned Anna Bligh. It could even be higher, with levee banks only reaching 11 metres. A reading of the river at 4pm will determine whether decisions need to be made about hospital and aged care facilities, as well as other evacuations.

A number of reservoirs in the Lockyer Valley are now running very low on drinking water. Thirteen water trucks will now be making runs of water, 24 hours a day, to top up those water reserves until infrastructure, until repairs can be made to water treatment facilities.

At the highest point 125,000 customers were without electricity. Right now 103,000 properties are without power, with aims to that figure dropping to 70,000 this evening. Tomorrow at 10pm it’s hoped that less than 30,000 properties will be without power. After that, connections will be much slower and reconnection make take several days, as they are properties that will be severely affected.

Police also announced that no bodies were found at the rail bridge at Grantham, where it was rumoured that numerous bodies were caught in debris under the bridge.

A blog written by ABC 612’s Richard Fidler captures an amazing snapshot of what it is like for ABC staff trying to keep reporting and giving information to listeners in Brisbane, while their city and their homes floods:

In Toowong, the waters are pretty much at the same level they were at yesterday afternoon at high tide; well up into Sylvan St behind the Shopping Centre car park. But now the waters are starting to stink. Scott Spark likens the smell to a damp camel.

Rebecca Levingston has just returned to the office after broadcasting the Breakfast program from the evacuation centre at the RNA Showgrounds.

When the Breakfast team arrived at 4am they were wondering why the centre was so quiet and apparently empty. Then they peeped behind a partition wall and saw in the darkened space 700 sleeping people.

Rebecca overheard a conversation in the ladies’ toilets that went like this:

“You look gorgeous!”
“The only thing I want to do is to be in my own shower and shampoo and condition my hair. When do you think we’ll be able to go home?”
“I don’t know but it doesn’t matter because you look gorgeous.”

Volunteers at the evacuation centre have set up a kids’ activity spot. Bec’s eye was caught by the puzzle table, where she saw newly homeless people quietly talking, as they patiently tap in the pieces of a thousand piece jigsaw of a picturesque cottage with manicured gardens.

jigsawphoto by Scott Spark on Twitter.

Earlier I recorded an interview with Carol, our security officer here at 612. Carol’s house is in East Ipswich and she hasn’t been home for days because she can’t get back. Carol says her house now has a Granny Flat: a shipping container has come to rest on her car port. There’s also a tank and a fridge that’s drifted onto the front of her place. She’s been told that the waters have peaked up to her roof. She hasn’t had much sleep, lying awake at night, dreading what will greet her when she returns.

Yesterday’s blog by Richard Fidler also makes for compelling reading.

A word from a Crikey reader currently stuck in Brisbane. Might be useful for those trying to get in contact with friends and family in Queensland, try SMS not phone calls:

The mobile phone network has been overloaded most of the time. SMS gets through a bit slowly, but voice calls and voice mails are all but impossible during the day.

4:00 pm A collection of some of the latest Twitter photos coming in from the floods. Nine News reporter Cam Price is in Grantham today and is tweeting pictures of the devastation. A local bridge:

granthambridge

A destroyed property:

granthamhouse

Military vehicles arriving in Grantham:

granthammilit

Photos taken on a camera phone by Nearmap.com. From their Brisbane aircraft:

fromair

And from one over Ipswich:

fromair2

Back in Brisbane: traffic lights in Fairfield, by @MolksTVTalk:

traffic

And again by @MolksTVTalk, the tennis centre in Yeronga:

tennis

In the Brisbane CBD, Jono Haysom again had some excellent photos today, including flood water pouring into the abandoned Vision construction site:

construction

Another from Haysom, flooded Eagle St first thing this morning.

eagle

Also, this alarming by hilarious tweet by the Brisbane City Council earlier today:

“Please don’t be alarmed if 2 coffins seen floating in river. Halloween party props with mannequin in 1. Washed away from residents deck.”

3:45 pm The riverside cultural duo of the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art will be closed for two weeks, with clean up starting on Saturday. None of the collections have been damaged.

Solar panels retain electricity even of the mains are off, so ABC 612 is warning locals to stay away from solar panels as they could be electrically live.

2:45 pm An adult male has been found dead in the Myall Creek, near Dalby, taking the flood death toll to 15. In a small amount of positive news, the number of missing people has been revised down to 61, from the last “over 70” figure.

A police task-force has been created to protect flood-affected properties from looting, known as ‘Operation Safeguard’. It will involve 200 policemen, 100 from Queensland Police, 100 from NSW, SA and Victorian Police. Police officers will patrol in cars of two, with one Queensland police officer and interstate officer in each car, 24/7 to maintain the security of Brisbane and Ipswich properties evacuated due to flooding.

“For security, safety and the confidence of the public, we believe this [taskforce] is important,” said Queensland Police Commissioner Rob Atkinson. Operation Safeguard is strictly focused on the cities of Brisbane and Ipswich.

While a small team will start over the weekend, most police will arrive on Monday for a briefing and then will commence the operation from Tuesday. The Operation Safeguard patrolling is expected to last for three weeks and will last longer if required.

Three men were charged with looting in Brisbane yesterday, but that was the extent of it so far, said Atkinson.

Atkinson also spoke of the need to be conscious of fatigue management and to maintain the heath and wellbeing of police officers, volunteers and emergency workers, with many already working for weeks and dealing with traumatic circumstances, such as children who have died in the flooding.

More than 4,000 people in recent days have been staying in evacuation centres, but this was expected to drop significantly this afternoon as Ipswich water receded. Queensland Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts also noted that evacuation centres and volunteering hotlines have been overwhelmed by people trying to donate items and volunteer their time. While it was appreciated, the “best form of assistance” right now is simply to donate money to the Premiers Flood Relief Appeal.

1:45 pm “It warms my heart, sometimes break my heart, to hear their stories”, said PM Julia Gillard from Ipswich, where she is meeting victims and volunteers of the recent floods.

Gillard spoke of the more than 20,000 emergency payments, totalling $24 million that have already been made by Centrelink for those affected by the floods. However, Gillard also noted what a challenging time it was for Centrelink staff, with many also coping with their own flood-affected properties and families.

More military equipment, including Bushmasters and heavy vehicles are being used by the military in the floods.

Gillard also spoke about the many volunteers she had met during her visit to Ipswich and Brisbane, and how “even in the darkest days, [people are] looking on the bright side and finding a word of comfort for each other.”

Further questions were asked about whether the government would be able to keep the budget under surplus now that Queensland flood sisaster has occured. “We’re in an unfolding disaster… and we’re in the immediate phase of responding,” said Gillard. “Yes we will bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13, but we have a need for Queensland as well,” declared Gillard.

12:45 pm A 24-year-old man has died in Brisbane, the first Brisbane related death and the 14 person to have been killed in these recent floods. His death was “avoidable”, said Queensland Police Commissioner Rob Atkinson. “This is exactly what we were afraid would happen,” he said.

The man had gone back to check his father’s property after flooding, but “he shouldn’t have been in the waters and it’s claimed his life,” announced Anna Bligh, as she cautioned citizens to avoid going back in to flood damaged property.

“This incident is not over. The floodwaters are moving fast,” said Bligh, noting that rapidly moving sharp objects are moving quickly through flood waters, and while the waters may appear still on top, underneath they are dangerous.

Electricity will not be reconnected back to flood-affected homes until electricians have certified that these homes are safe, which will be a long process, notes Bligh.

Bligh also said what an “enormous assistance” social networking has been during these floods, in terms of disseminating information and connecting people, but noted that false rumours spread like wildfire on the internet and that’s why the government continues to hold press conferences every two hours.

The Island Party Barge is currently secure, with extra moorings secured and the engines of the boat running in order to keep it steady. The vessel’s engines will be run for the next three days in order to keep it safe. The Moggill Ferry is also considered safe, now that extra mooring has been secured.

12:15 pm A heartbreaking tale following the death of 13-year-old Jordan Rice and his mum Donna in Toowoomba earlier this week. Jordan was trapped with his mum and younger brother Blake after their car stopped when crossing flood waters, forcing them on to the roof of their car.  A truck driver tied a rope around his waist to jump in and rescue them, yet when the driver reached Jordan, Jordan told him “save me brother”. Jordan Rice died along with his mother Donna, while his 10-year-old brother was able to be pulled to shore.

All flood affected residents should treat their homes as electrically ‘live’ and make sure electricians have inspected homes before re-entering. People should avoid entering flood waters and creeks as they could also be electrically live, warn police and maritime safety officials .

Also, Anna Bligh announced that those who wished to volunteer to help in the flood aftermath should head to the Volunteering Australia website and register their skills and details.

Detainees at an immigration centre are also collecting funds to donate to the Queensland floods, according to a recent tweet by Sandi Logan, the communications director at the Department of Immigration:

Immigration detainees in Darwin are collecting funds to donate to QLD flood relief. An unselfish act they (70) initiated y’day/2day.

Coles and Woolworths have closed five supermarkets each across Brisbane, while Aldi has also closed stores. In shocking news to crap beer drinks, the XXXX brewery was flooded yesterday:

Representatives for Queensland’s iconic XXXX beer have told shoppers to expect ongoing shortages.

Some retailers may have enough beer supplies to last two weeks, a XXXX spokesman said, but parts of the state may go without for as long as the floodwaters remain.

“We’ve got stock in warehouses but we’ve had to cancel some deliveries,” he said. “It’s a question of safety for our staff; some routes are too dangerous.”

Brisbane’s grocery stores have been largely stripped bare and face difficulty restocking.

A spokesman for the XXXX brewery at Milton, which was flooded yesterday, said operations would stop for a week and some deliveries to flood-affected regions had been cancelled indefinitely.

11:30am “To Queenslanders everywhere… as we weep for what we have lost and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want you to remember who we are: we are Queenslanders, we are the people that they breed tough at the north of the border, we are the ones that are knocked out and we get up again…” said an emotional Anna Bligh, her voice breaking with tears as gave the latest update on the Queensland floods.

“I said earlier in this week that this make break our hearts, and it is doing that, but it will not break our will,” declared Bligh.

A male body has discovered in a field in Grantham, taking the official death toll to 13 people. More than 70 people are still listed as missing, with Bligh noting that this number rose yesterday due to flooding in Ipswich and people unable to get in contact with family and friends. She is hopeful that that number may decrease today as more are discovered in evacuation centres.

A massive search and rescue operation is underway in the Lockyer Valley today to help find the numerous missing people in that region and the community should brace themselves for that death toll to rise. The Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley has been “completely and utterly devastated… whole towns are unrecognisable,” said Bligh.

Many citizens in Brisbane and Ipswich are feeling”euphoric” today as the flood levels didn’t reach estimated levels, but Bligh warns that this will be “a rebuilding proccess of postwar proportions” and the true extent of the thousands of damaged properties and infrastructure in Brisbane will only become known in coming days.

Bligh spoke of riding in a helicopter over Brisbane floods yesterday and seeing hundreds of roofs underwater: “Underneath every one of those roofs is a family, underneath every roof is a horror story.”

Currently 119,000 properties across South East Queensland are without power, the majority of those in Brisbane. 37 electrical substations were closed in Brisbane’s CBD yesterday as a precaution for the rising flood waters. Those that were not affected will be turned back on today, however Bligh notes that many citizens could remain without power for weeks and may need to seek alternative accommodation if they haven’t already.

“The ripple effect of this event can not be underestimated”, said Bligh, as she talked about the “dislocation and the disruption” felt across Queensland  as more than 70 towns and cities are either affected directly by the flood waters or have had supplies cut off.

Authorities are very concerned about Goondiwindi and Condamine, as river systems across South-East Queensland continue to fall, apart from those in Goondiwindi and Condamine. Condamine has been completely evacuated, while hydrologists are working on predictions in Goondiwindi, with a peak of 10.7 metres expected, just under the 11 metre levees.

“You will not be forgotten,” Bligh told regional communities, adamant that Brisbane and Ipswich will not steal the limelight and the rescue and rebuilding effort for these devastating Queensland floods.

10:30am This brilliant photo of the Wally “The King” Lewis statue outside the Suncorp stadium is doing the round this morning, by @mackiemarsellos.

floaties

The “flood” sculpture by Richard Tipping outside the Brisbane Powerhouse is a little eerie today. Photo by Espen Klem on Flickr.

floodsculp

For footage of the “little tugboat that could”, — the tugboat pilot who managed to steer a 300m section of the floating walkway through floodways to avoid it colliding with major infrastrucutre — check out the Sky News video.

floodcap

Premier Anna Bligh praised the tugboat this morning:

“I think there is a childrens book called the little tug boat that could and I was watching it thinking ‘I think I can, I think I can’.”

Asked if “tugboat guy” should get an order of Australia — as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd suggested earlier today — Ms Bligh joked that “at the very least, he deserves a beer”.

9:30am Sad reports say that 11 of 12 people recently reported missing in the floods come from just two families in the Murphys Creek area.

Since the flood peak was lower than expected, figures of the number of properties have been revised, although they are still shocking. Now, 11,900 properties are expected to have experienced full flooding, compared to the 20,000 predicted yesterday. About 14,700 are likely to be partially affected by the flooding. Included in those figures are 5,000 businesses. Thousands of homes are flooded to their roofs.

It may be months before some residents can move back into homes, warns Anna Bligh. The Queensland government has a fact sheet for those needing information on what to do with their properties and themselves after flooding.

About 115,000 homes in south-east Queensland have no electricity, Energex told ABC Local Radio. Of that figure, 80,000 in the greater Brisbane area and 30,000 properties in the Ipswich region are without power. Due to the power cuts, much of the city’s rail system is not available. Information on services running can be found here.

The Brisbane River is now at 4.25 metres. You can keep updated with the river height at this page from the Bureau of Meterology. Although it was originally predicted to hang around at a high level until at least Saturday, it is dropping considerably and could be a metre lower by 3pm.

Both the Island Party Barge and the Moggill Ferry have now been secured, Queensland Police confirm. To keep up to date on what roads are open — though police still advice only “necessary” travel takes place — check out this Queensland Highways Twitter feed. Crikey finds this news amongst the most alarming (though take it with a grain of salt; the crocodiles and snakes in the water story got a very big run last week):

Roads: Drivers (& residents) in Goonden [sic: Goodna] to be aware of a Bull Shark in the streets

A look at front pages around the nation, with particular mention to the “City of the Damned” headline in the Daily Telegraph. Click to enlarge this image.

Queensland_floods_3_600px

This brilliant flood map also shows updates of exactly which areas are suffering major and minor flooding.

mapflood

Rebuilding damaged Queensland infrastructure is now expected to take two years and cost billions of dollars. Between 70-90,000km of council roads have been damaged, as well as parks and sewerage systems.

This photo of the Suncorp stadium in Brisbane appeared on Sunrise this morning:

sunrisesuncorp

Jessica Rudd, author, Brisbane girl and daughter of Kevin, wrote a Mamamia article expressing her admiration for Anna Bligh’s leadership:

“I recognised the domes at Eagle Street Pier, the twin peaks of the Story Bridge, the red and yellow seats of Suncorp Stadium. I didn’t recognise the rising water, the rapid river, its detritus and the muck beneath it all…

“…Then I saw Premier Anna Bligh and I just knew it was going to be all right. As soon as she came onscreen my pulse slowed, my breathing steadied and my tummy unknotted.

“I think it was in her manner—the no-bull way she looked, that calm stare an impossible cocktail of warm compassion and hardcore determination. And it was in the way she spoke. Her tone was certain and her rhythm even-paced.”

If you have equipment like water tanks, bobcats, front-end loaders, dump trucks, etc that can be used in the recovery process, please contact [email protected].

For those overseas, ABC News 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

Peter Fray

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