Entire towns are under water and hundreds of residents are being forced to leave their homes as flooding continues across Queensland.
The State Government has declared a disaster in three towns – Theodore, Chinchilla and Dalby – where the worst flooding in half a century has inundated properties.
The entire township of Theodore, west of Bundaberg, is now being evacuated after the Dawson River passed its 1956 record of 14.07 metres overnight.
Powerlines have been dismantled to allow five helicopters to land and evacuate the town’s 350 residents.
Emergency Management Queensland chief Bruce Grady says the whole town is under water.
“The Dawson has experienced a record flood overnight and we are looking to evacuate the entire township of 350 residents,” he said.
“The police station is the only place that is currently dry.”
Even the evacuation centre is now taking water.
Banana Shire Councillor Vaughn Becker says the evacuation is voluntary, but he expects the majority of the town will leave.
“We’ve just had the community meeting here in the hall in Theodore to advise them that at this stage a disaster has been declared,” he said.
“There are some high-set houses and things like that where people feel they’re quite safe but that’s their choice.
“Theodore is a river town. This is the flood they’ve always been expecting, it’s here.”
The residents are being flown to the nearby town of Moura.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says more disaster declarations may have to be made.
“Emergency authorities are monitoring things to the minute and as additional declarations are required they will be made,” he said.
“But again, we are facing a really significant event here right across many parts of Queensland – a lot of flooding, a lot of people isolated, a lot of evacuations now occurring and a lot more rain to come.”
Mr Roberts says the state can expect a huge damage bill from the devastating floods.
In recent days the Government has said the bill will reach at least $600 million, but councils in flood-hit areas have suggested that figure is extremely conservative.
“It will have a significant impact on the budget, but with the activation of the joint state and federal natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements, councils can go ahead with certainty that [repairs] will be funded,” Mr Roberts said.
The flood emergency on the Darling Downs also worsened overnight, with almost 200 people evacuated from homes in Dalby, Warra and Chinchilla.
A disaster situation was declared in Dalby when the flooded Myall Creek split the town in two, flooding more than 100 homes.
Evacuations were carried out in the town and 120 people sought shelter in emergency accommodation.
Further west, the brown torrent of water is continuing to rise in Chinchilla, where more evacuations are expected today.
Charleys Creek has hit 7.24 metres – its highest level in almost 70 years.
More than 40 homes and businesses have been inundated with the water reaching roof-height in some places.
Although the sun is shining today, authorities say more water is heading downstream so it could be days until floodwaters start receding.
In the southern Darling Downs city of Warwick, hundreds of motorists were forced to bed down for the night in motels while others stayed at evacuation centres.
The Condamine River, which runs through Warwick, is subsiding this morning but there are reports of damage to the city’s main bridge.
The heaviest falls overnight were recorded between Bundaberg and Baralaba, with up to 120 millimetres of rain falling in catchments already above major flood levels.
The weather bureau’s supervising hydrologist, Jeff Perkins, says towns in the Burnett have seen record flooding.
“It’s a very widespread flood situation and it’s affecting lots of towns, so a very serious situation,” he said.
People have begun leaving their homes in the North Burnett, where the Burnett River has reached 18.6 metres in Mundubbera and is still rising.
Twenty homes in the town have been inundated.
North Burnett Council Mayor Joy Jensen says a new bridge over the Paradise Dam that was supposed to be flood-proof is now under water.
“The river was rising very quickly last night, higher than what was anticipated,” she said.
In Bundaberg, Councillor David Batt says the SES has been preparing for flooding.
“[We’re] getting lots of calls for sandbags and also ferrying people across creeks and rivers that have been cut off,” he said.
He says flooding has inundated businesses in the CBD and more rain is on the way.
Waters will continue to rise today in Mundubbera, Gayndah and Bundaberg in the Burnett, as well as in Taroom, Theodore, Emerald and Rockhampton in central Queensland.
Homes are also expected to be inundated in Roma in the southern inland, as well as Jericho and Alpha in the central-west.
Senior weather bureau forecaster Brian Rolston says the heavy rain band will contract northwards.
He says the heaviest falls of between 50 and 100 millimetres will be on the Capricorn coast and central highlands.
“So there’s still the potential for flooding through today and even though the rainfall eases tomorrow, there’s still going to be a flood situation going on,” he said.
“There’s always that lag behind the maximum rainfall.”
Meanwhile, in the south-east, there have been almost 3,000 calls to the Emergency Management Queensland hotline number in the past 24 hours.
Most of the calls have come from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Localised flooding has occurred over the past few days on a number of Brisbane roads, many of which remain affected.
Residents in low-lying Brisbane suburbs are being offered sandbags to protect them from possible flooding.