Another Queensland town evacuated

Last updated 09:50 30/12/2010

Flooding continues in parts of Queensland, Australia, with the government declaring disaster zones in the towns of Chinchilla, Theodore and Dalby.

Brett Jensen
Reuters
WASHED OUT: Brett Jensen looks on as he stands next to his restaurant affected by floods in Bundaberg, Queensland.

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A second Queensland town has undergone forced evacuations as widespread flooding continues to plague the state.

The entire town of Condamine, in the Darling Downs, was evacuated today, with its 100 residents forced to leave their homes to be flown to an evacuation centre in nearby Dalby.

It comes a day after the 300-strong population of Theodore became the first whole town ever to be evacuated due to flooding in Queensland yesterday.

Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown said police were on hand to assist with the Condamine evacuation and would remain behind to protect abandoned homes from looters.

"[The Condamine River] is 14.25 metres at present. At 14.5 metres, half the town will be inundated," he told ABC radio.

"We are expecting in excess of 15 metres. The whole town will be inundated."

Further north, plans are also being made to evacuate 2500 people from Emerald, which is completely cut off and under increasing threat from the rising Nogoa River.

Mr Grady said 80 per cent of Emerald would be affected by flooding, with 92 people already evacuated.

Concerns now surround food security, with floodwaters forcing the closure one of two major supermarkets in town.

“Coles [supermarket] is inundated … and has closed. Woolworths will probably go under later today or tomorrow,” Mr Grady said.

Rockhampton could also be cut off completely from the rest of the state by this weekend, with fears rising that flood levels could close the city’s airport.

‘‘With the flooding of the Fitzroy River expected to reach nine metres by Sunday and 9.4 metres by Tuesday, it is likely that Rockhampton Airport will close this weekend,’’ a statement on the airport’s website said.

Emergency Management Queensland acting chief officer Bruce Grady said that with roads already cut off to the south and west, food and medical supplies may need to be shipped to Rockhampton.

“Food supply generally is of growing concern,” he said.

Mr Grady said the state’s major and independent supermarkets were talking with emergency services about how to open new supply routes.

“We might have to look at some creative ways of doing that. We may have to look at moving product by sea [or] by plane,” he said.

“There is a whole range of planning that is currently going on.”

Premier Anna Bligh warned residents to be prepared but avoid panic buying.

‘‘We will be able to get emergency helicopters in so people don't need to panic. We will be able to ensure that there is the food and medical supplies they need,’’ she said.

‘‘But it will be quite a large logistical exercise with more than 500 homes potentially affected and people in those homes out of them staying with friends or in the emergency centres.’’

Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said it was a ‘‘very, very serious situation’’ and the city was bracing itself for disaster.

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‘‘There is an enormous body of water coming towards us and we are now expecting some flood river heights of about nine metres throughout the weekend and possibly getting to 9.4-plus next week, around about the Tuesday,’’ he told Fairfax Radio 4BC.

‘‘That actually makes it, if we reach those levels, higher than it was in [the majors floods of] 1991, so all I can say to our community is that it’s now very serious and we are looking for a lot of co-operation from our community over the next couple of weeks.’’

Cr Carter said there had been reports of panic buying yesterday, but encouraged people to stock up on essential foods and fresh water.

‘‘We’ve been talking to the supermarket industry to make sure they’ve got their supplies in place, but the difficulty there is that we have the Bruce Highway cut down at Gin Gin and supplies are coming in slowly,’’ he said.

‘‘The issue of being able to restock now, whilst we’re encouraging people to do that, is not as easy as you might think.

‘‘And come this weekend and early next week, getting the supplies through is going to be more challenging. We’re hopeful we’ll be able to get some of the larger trucks through some of the water on the highway, but at this stage we can’t give a guarantee.’’

CUT IN TWO

Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from homes in Bundaberg as the Burnett River swelled to the biggest flood the city has seen since 68 years.

Bundaberg Regional Council Deputy Mayor Tony Ricciardi said residents were hopeful the river had peaked at 7.95 metres, just shy of the 8.3 metre mark set in 1942.

Cr Ricciardi said 80 homes had been completely flooded and up to 140 more were inundated with enough water for residents to be evacuated. In total, more than 400 homes have been affected by flooding.

All evacuations have been completed but State Emergency Service crews are continuing to provide supplies to residents cut off by the floods.

‘‘We have a few isolated areas out in the region such as at the back of Perry River which has been over for nearly two weeks, where there is almost 300 people cut-off,’’ Cr Ricciardi said.

With residents housed in evacuation centres overnight, Cr Ricciardi said he was hopeful the water would begin to subside overnight.

‘‘The other big issue is trying to get these peple back into their homes as soon as we can but it’ll be another 24 hours, maybe up to 48 hours,’’ he said.

Yesterday, traffic out of Bundaberg was backed up for kilometres as residents scrambled to reach higher ground and Premier Anna Bligh declared the city the state's eighth disaster zone, along with Dalby, Chinchilla, Theodore, Burnett, Rockhampton, Woorabinda and Emerald.

Residents may not be able to return to their homes for another three to fours days, authorities have warned.

The floods are this time expected to be worse than those in 2008, forcing some residents to rebuild their lives for a second time inside three years.

And although rain may have eased, the rivers are yet to peak in central Queensland, raising concerns the central coast could be isolated from the rest of the state for weeks.

WATER DELIVERY

The state government began delivering more than 100,000 litres of drinking water to Dalby this morning after the town’s water treatment plant was flooded this week.

Yesterday Dalby had just two days worth of drinking water left, but emergency water restrictions put in place saved another day’s supply.

However Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said water would be delivered to the town as a precaution.

“This is a proactive measure, initiated before stocks were exhausted,’’ he said.

“We have contracted five registered water carriers for the job, with the first of eight trucks delivering 112,500 litres of water arriving in Dalby this morning."

Businesses requiring drinking water supplies should contact Western Downs Regional Council on 0408 718 385.

GHOST TOWN

Theodore remains a ghost town this morning, after being completely evacuated yesterday.

The entire population, including many pets, was forced to leave the town by helicopter as the Theodore River reached 14.13 metres.

Only a skeleton crew of emergency volunteers and police remain.

Chinchilla is also still largely underwater, while half of all homes in the town of Jericho are submerged.

Town water in Jericho, Alpha and Baralba is contaminated, with residents being urged to boil their water for three minutes before drinking it.

The last road in and out of the town of Emerald was cut yesterday afternoon as the Nogoa River enveloped the Vince Lester Bridge.

There were more than 700 Queenslanders sleeping in evacuation centres across the sodden state last night and many more staying with family and friends.

Residents in the small town of Taroom, nearly 100 kilometres south of Theodore, are preparing to be isolated by the floods for up to two months.

Agnes Water remains completely isolated from all directions, although there had been no evacuations. More food is expected to be delivered to Agnes Waters today and a commercial vessel is currently operating to Gladstone.

Two hundred residents were moved to higher ground in Emerald last night.

Today 1000 people are preparing to leave their homes ahead of the Nogoa River reaching its expected peak of 16.2 metres, nearly one metre higher than the 2008 flood level.

COUNTING THE COST

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the state a disaster zone, but has said it was too early to yet estimate the costs associated with flood damage.

Mr Grady said residents staying in an evacuation centres may not be able to return home for more than a week.

"These floodwaters are likely to remain high for a long period of time," he told reporters yesterday.

"In some cases that might be measured in weeks, rather than days.

"Patience is the key here. Those waters will go down when nature [chooses], not when we want them to.

"If residents have moved out of their property, it may be some time before they can move back in."

Authorities are advising holiday travellers stranded in towns, spared the inundation, to stay put and stock up on food.

However hundreds of motorists have been turned away from the towns of Gin Gin and Childers, which have been overwhelmed by weary travellers in the past week.

There are no spare beds in either town and supermarket shelves have been emptied.

APPEAL FOR FUNDS

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday launched an appeal to help those affected by flooding.

"It is impossible not to feel for those Queensland families who have lost everything in these floods, particularly so close to Christmas," Ms Bligh said.

"The resilience of these Queensland communities is certainly on display but the worst is far from over and they need our help.

“This is an unprecedented situation in Queensland and we ask Australians to give what they can."

 

- Brisbane Times

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