Queensland towns are bracing for more misery today as residents in deluged communities continue to be evacuated and flood waters continue to rise.
Rain is clearing from sodden central and southern Queensland but water is continuing to flow into already swollen rivers and tributaries and the situation across parts of the state is set to worsen again this week.
Army helicopters will this morning help complete evacuations at Theodore, south-west of Rockhampton, where the Dawson River is continuing to rise.
On the south-east coast, up to 200 homes are expected to be inundated at Bundaberg today when the city experiences its highest flood peak in 50 years.
Across the state about 1,000 residents have already been forced out of their homes and hundreds of roads and highways remain cut.
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Disasters have been declared in Theodore, Chinchilla and Dalby, as well as in Alpha and Jericho in the central west and at Warra on the Western Downs, in what has been the worst flooding in decades.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Jimmy Stuart says flooding is set to continue across parts of the state today and flood peaks are still to be reached.
“We’ll see further rises along the Burnett, towards Bundaberg during today,” he said.
“Certainly towards Rockhampton and Emerald we’ll see further rises during today and we’re also expecting rises down at towards Charleville to continue.”
Hundreds of residents have fled their homes in Bundaberg, as the swollen Burnett River – due to peak at 7.5 metres later today – continues to inundate parts of the city.
Resident Daniel Bell says he has lost his home.
“We’ve got nowhere to go, we’ve got no family here,” he said.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says a large number of people are also set to be evacuated from Emerald, where authorities are keeping a close watch on the Nagoa River, which is expected to flood homes later this week.
Chinchilla councillor Bill McCutcheon says although readings last night showed levels were falling, there is still more water on the way.
“We know there’s a huge amount of water coming down from above so we’ll be monitoring the situation there and we expect the water to keep rising,” he said.
The latest reading for Charley’s Creek in Chinchilla shows the water level at 7.1 metres.
Three evacuation centres have been set up in Warwick, where the bridge across the Condamine River was cut by rising flood waters on Monday.
River levels are also causing concern in Theodore, Moura, Baralaba, Mundubbera, Gayndah, Chinchilla and Rockhampton.
Hydrologist Jimmy Stewart says flood levels are expected to remain high for several days.
“The Fitzroy Basin for example is absolutely huge and it will be well into the weekend before we can get an accurate assessment of what will happen at Rockhampton,” he said.
“There’s three different areas that respond, for example, the central Highlands, the Connors Isaac system and the Dawson.
“The timing of those peaks will be crucial to what happens at Rockhampton.”
But senior forecaster Bryan Roleston says the rain system that has drenched the state, in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone Tasha, is easing in other areas.
“There’s still little bits of patchy rain, showers running down the central coast down towards the south-east coast at the moment, but basically the heavier weather is offshore,” he said.
“There’s some weak thunderstorms off the central coast and the trough that’s causing all the previous weather is moving up towards Bowen now.”
Two military helicopters will this morning complete the mass evacuation from the central Queensland town of Theodore, which is almost completely underwater.
The Army Black Hawks are expected to take about 60 residents and their many dogs and cats to the safety of a mine camp at nearby Moura.
Banana Shire Councillor Vaughn Becker says he does not know how many animals are stranded.
“More than people – that’s all I”m prepared to say,” he said.
Councillor Becker says residents were not happy about leaving their pets behind.
“A lot of them were very upset that they thought they may have to leave them but there has been changes of policy and now the pets can be included in the evacuation program,” he said.
He says it was a spectacular flight when he caught the last chopper out of Theodore late yesterday.
“It was just mammoth water, but also certainly mixed feelings there,” he said.
The final evacuation should be completed this morning as the residents and pets join the rest of the Theodore community at the mine in Moura.
The Local Government Association says there will be a huge damage bill from the floods.
Spokesman Greg Hoffman says roads, infrastructure and industry have been hard hit.
“Certainly the Banana Shire area of Theodore with the town evacuated effectively – never before has that happened,” he said.
“The situation is certainly going to worsen over the next week, even though the rain is letting up.”
Queensland’s overall damage bill has been tipped to exceed $1 billion.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says the worst is far from over.
“Over the next 48 hours rain will be easing but the real impact in some communities won’t be felt for a couple of days when floodwaters begin to recede,” he said.
“Once the rain finishes there will still be significant flooding impacts over the next few days.”
Premier Anna Bligh has returned from leave to be briefed on crisis.
Ms Bligh is due to inspect flood damage in Bundaberg and Rockhampton today, while deputy premier Paul Lucas will visit Dalby and Warwick.