Town Deserted as Waters Rise

In Australasia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

Residents are evacuating their homes across low-lying parts of Queensland as floodwaters continue to rise in southern and central areas of the state.

Bundaberg, Emerald and Rockhampton remain the focus of attention for emergency authorities dealing with rising floodwaters across Queensland.

Emergency authorities say more properties are likely to be inundated in Bundaberg as floodwaters peak today.

Emergency workers and helicopter crews are coming to the end of the forced evacuation of Theodore, west of Bundaberg, with most of the community now taking shelter further north in the town of Moura.

Dogs in cages barked incessantly as their owners climbed into helicopters bound for Moura this morning.

The last of Theodore’s pets are expected to be flown out in Army Blackhawks, which have so far been delayed by technical problems, later today.

The town’s 300 residents have no idea when they will go home.

Some Theodore residents are staying behind, with family and friends who have properties on high ground.

Cotton grower Fleur Anderson is among them and says there is a strange feeling in the town.

“We came across in a dinghy this morning over to my house to clean out some fridges and lift some stuff up before it comes into the house, and it’s very eerie,” she said.

“There’s no-one around, there’s lots of cars parked on high banks and things where you wouldn’t expect to see them, and not a soul to see.”

Rainfall across the state has eased in most areas, but hundreds of millimetres over the Christmas holiday period is still making its way through the state’s river systems, cutting roads, isolating towns and swamping farmland.

The flood crisis is set to worsen today, with hundreds more homes expected to be inundated, and authorities in central Queensland have advised residents to begin leaving low-lying areas of Emerald and Rockhampton.

The Nogoa River at Emerald is expected to peak on Friday at more than 15.5 metres – the biggest flood the town has ever seen.

Mayor Peter Maguire says the Vince Lester Bridge will be closed by 2:00pm AEST this afternoon and rail lines may also be cut when the river peaks.

“We’re trying to get processes in place to evacuate people to the centres,” he said.

Evacuation centres are being set up as the Nagoa River looks set to rise 300 millimetres above the 2008 flood level, cutting both road and rail access.

In Rockhampton, up to 500 homes are expected to be inundated when the Fitzroy River peaks on Tuesday.

Authorities say the river could reach 8.5 metres by the end of the week.

Emergency Management Queensland chief Bruce Grady says Rockhampton is due to experience a significant flood event next week.

“We are planning for 400 homes to have water around them and up to 50 properties with water up to the floorboards and maybe above,” he said.

‘Absolutely powerless’

More than 200 residents have left their homes in Bundaberg, where the swollen Burnett River continues to rise and is expected to peak at 7.5 metres today – its highest level in 50 years.

At least 300 people have also been evacuated from a caravan park in the town.

Bundaberg businesses have been inundated and more than 100 streets are cut.

Resident Daniel Bell says he has lost his home.

“We’ve got nowhere to go, we’ve got no family here,” he said.

“You feel powerless. Absolutely powerless. All you can do is pray.”

Authorities are expecting more homes to be inundated today as the Burnett River reaches its peak.

And waters are rising again in Chinchilla, where residents have already begun evacuating and another 50 homes are expected to go under.

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.

He says there will be more evacuations today.

The latest reading for Charley’s Creek in Chinchilla shows the water level at 7.1 metres.

Three evacuation centres are still open in Warwick, where the bridge across the Condamine River was cut by rising flood waters on Monday.

Unchartered waters

The weather bureau’s hydrologist, Peter Baddiley, says Taroom is also of serious concern today, as the Upper Dawson River poses a threat.

“What that could do is put very big rises from downstream of Taroom in the Glebe area down towards Theodore,” he said.

He says that could also push up water levels in Moura and Baralaba.

Alan Harris from the SES says the Dawson River is above 10 metres and continuing to rise near the town, west of Bundaberg.

“We’re in unchartered waters here. This is the highest flood in living memory here,” he said.

“There have been higher floods but we are way above the 1956 peak which was a fraction over nine metres, so we’re nearly a metre over that already.”

Several homes have already been evacuated from Taroom, and Mr Harris says more evacuations are likely.

“We’ve done five already this morning. Possibly another three later this morning,” he said.

“They’re all homes, about seven people have been evacuated to either relatives or friends homes. We’ve taken the contents out of their houses and stored it for them.”

Far from over

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.”

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is due to inspect flood damage in Bundaberg and Rockhampton today, while deputy premier Paul Lucas will visit Dalby and Warwick.

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