Toowoomba Hit by Inland Tsunami

In Australasia, Earthquakes & Tsunamis, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

A desperate situation is unfolding in Queensland’s south-east, after flash flooding claimed the lives of at least seven people on Monday.

Heavy rain created a deadly torrent of water that swept people off their feet, cars down city streets and houses off their foundations in the Darling Downs city of Toowoomba.

Four deaths have been confirmed, while the ABC understands three others have died.

The raging waters are headed towards Lowood, east of Toowoomba and about 65km from Brisbane, and could affect expected flood levels in Brisbane and at Ipswich.

A severe weather warning has been issued for several parts of the state, and people are being evacuated from homes at Condamine, Chinchilla and Dalby, west of Toowoomba.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says the flash floods are without doubt Queensland’s “darkest hour” since the state’s flood crisis began.

“The event that started in Toowoomba can only be described as a complete freak of nature, an extraordinary deluge that almost came out of nowhere,” she said.

“What we have here in Queensland tonight is a very grim and desperate situation. There are many Queenslanders tonight in critical and dire circumstances.

“Many people are facing a very terrifying night. I think we can all say that our thoughts are with them over the coming hours and we pray and hope that they will be safe when first light comes tomorrow morning.”

Police say a woman and child died in Toowoomba when their car was swept away in floodwaters in the CBD.

A man and a boy also died at Murphy’s Creek in the Lockyer Valley when they were swept from a house.

The ABC understands two women and a child have died at Grantham.

At Postman’s Ridge just outside Toowoomba, a man is believed to have drowned after he was swept away in floodwaters.

There is also an unconfirmed report of three children missing in nearby Gatton, in the Lockyer Valley, where flash flooding has also caused widespread damage.

A search and rescue operation is continuing for the people who have yet to be accounted for, but is being hindered by the weather.

Ms Bligh says there have been 43 rooftop rescues so far and authorities are trying to establish how many people are missing.

“We will be getting out at first light to continue the search for those who have been notified as missing and to continue the rescue efforts for those who have been stranded on rooftops,” she said.

Toowoomba’s nursing home, library and shopping centre have been evacuated, while a landslide has blocked the up section of the Toowoomba Range.

Resident Joanne Kruger says it was like being in a disaster movie.

“It was like the tide had come in dramatically, like rolling waves across the road,” she said.

‘Wall of water’

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson says it has been a grim day for the state’s south-east.

“This has been a terrible day, a terrible day. Early reports would indicate that what hit Toowoomba could best be described as an inland instant tsunami, with a massive wall of water that’s gone down through the Lockyer Valley,” he said.

Mr Atkinson said emergency crews were trying to reach every vehicle that was swept away.

“Every vehicle that was swept away, no matter what the circumstances or where that vehicle may be, we’re endeavouring to get into those vehicles and see if there is anyone trapped,” he said.

“We are doing all we can tonight, but it is just impossible to complete this tonight.”

Toowoomba Mayor Peter Taylor says the damage is enormous.

“There has been loss of life, I don’t know how many at this point but I do know that at least one person’s life has been lost and there’s massive damage,” he said.

He says the city is in shock.

“It’s just a real disaster scene where I am standing at the moment in Russell Street in Toowoomba, there is actually furnishings and furniture,” he said.

“It’s just blown shops away, there’s water literally running out of the front door of shops here as a major flash flood came through the middle of the city.”

A large number of people have been forced to flee their homes as a wall of water moves down Lockyer Creek which will flow into the Bremer and Brisbane Rivers causing more flooding tomorrow.

Concerns are held for around 30 people stranded after floodwaters swept through Grantham in the Lockyer Valley.

Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones says no-one had time to prepare for the torrent that rushed down the Toowoomba range.

“Some houses have been taken off their stumps and literally gone down the creek,” he said.

“It’s been through buildings over buildings, washed cars away that type of thing.

“Horrific, really horrific circumstances.”

Around six people are missing at Withcott, where three pedestrians were swept away in floodwaters and two vehicles disappeared.

An evacuation centre has been set up at the state school at Withcott, and it is also available for residents in trouble at Murphy’s Creek.

More rain forecast

Flood waters are reaching record levels in rivers and creeks west of Brisbane.

Police are urging people in low-lying areas to leave their homes from Gatton to Ipswich.

David Grant from the weather bureau says more rain is on the way.

“There was a brief reprieve around Toowoomba, however there has been further rainfall push across the area that may last for the next hour or so, probably return to more patchier rain before we probably see a redevelopment later on in the afternoon into the evening,” he said.

Rain is bucketing down in the southern inland town of St George, adding to the flood crisis there.

And heavy rainfall has also caused flash flooding at Esk in the Brisbane Valley. Many roads in the area are closed because of landslips and the council office has been flooded.

Residents are also evacuating homes in low-lying areas of Stanthorpe on the Granite Belt.

As well as Toowoomba, emergency services in Queensland are focused on Dalby and Gympie in the state’s south-east, which are both on flood alert.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents in flood-affected areas of south-east Queensland are likely to remain without power until at least Tuesday.

Energex says about 6,000 homes are blacked-out. About half of those are in the Lockyer Valley, while Gympie and the Sunshine Coast hinterland are also affected.

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