Heartbreak For Brisbane Residents

In Australasia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

The Brisbane River has peaked below five metres, but authorities are still warning there will be widespread devastation.

The river reached 4.46 metres – almost a metre lower than the historic flood of 1974 – and will remain at major flood levels until sometime tomorrow.

Floodwaters, however, have still inundated dozens of suburbs and turned the centre of the Queensland capital into a ghost town.

More than 25,000 homes have been totally or partially flooded in Brisbane. Initial assessments based on the revised peak will mean 11,500 residential homes have been fully flooded.

The worst-hit suburbs are Brisbane City, St Lucia, West End, Rocklea and Graceville.

Around 116,000 homes across south-east Queensland are without power.

The death toll stands at 12, with police yet to determine if the death of a 50-year-old man, whose body was found in Ipswich, is flood-related.

The Weather Bureau had revised down the expected peak of the Brisbane River three times overnight.

Authorities had expected the river to peak at 5.2 metres at the 4:00am (AEST) high tide, down from an even earlier forecast of 5.5 metres.

Hydrologist Jeff Perkins says the river levels should start falling this morning before rising again with the tide this afternoon.

“It’s one of those ones where we have a rule that we don’t call it a peak until we see it falling,” he said.

“What tends to happen is it steadies off. Once we see it steady we’ll be pretty confident it’s a peak.

“But we might not see it falling for a couple of hours yet.”

At Ipswich, the Bremer River peaked lower than its expected peak of 22 metres, sparing hundreds of homes from inundation.

Thousands of others, however, have been devastated.

Premier Anna Bligh has warned that residents are facing “shocking” flood scenes.

She said Brisbane had developed significantly since 1974 and there were many more built-up areas that would be affected by flooding now compared to then.

“Brisbane will go to sleep tonight and wake up to scenes that they have, many of them, never seen anything like in their lives,” Ms Bligh told reporters late on Wednesday.

Hundreds have lined the banks of the river to watch the spectacle unfold.

“You just don’t expect this catastrophe to happen in a capital city, I suppose,” Stuart Wagner said.

“We were here yesterday and there was about 1,000 people and there was just an eerie silence [with] people just watching things unfold in front of them.”

Across south-east Queensland, almost 80,000 homes in the greater Brisbane area are without power, 30,000 in Ipswich and surrounding suburbs, 4,200 in the Lockyer Valley and pockets around Redcliffe, Gympie, Logan and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

Many major roads remain cut. The William Jolly, Go Between and Victoria bridges are closed, while the Captain Cook Bridge is open inbound as far as the Elizabeth Street exit.

River missiles

A large section of the floating RiverWalk was shadowed by water police as it floated along the river and out to Moreton Bay.

A 300-metre section broke away about 11:00pm (AEST) and concerns it could crash into the supports of the Gateway Bridge caused police to close the major road three times overnight.

The bridge re-opened shortly after 5:00am once the section had passed.

Officers on the police boat Vigilant not only had to manoeuvre the broken walkway away from the Gateway Bridge supports but also a large commercial vessel at Douboy Creek near the mouth of the river.

It caused no damage or injury, police say.

Police have been escorting the Army through the flood-stricken streets of Fairfield and Yeronga, with small teams walking from house to house to check on residents.

The area is without power and many people have left but some resolutely stay.

One homeowner at the water’s edge said he feared looters.

Elsewhere the mood was more relaxed, with one man sitting by a flooded roadway at Fairfield playing his guitar to the water.

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