Heavy rainfall over the week in the bay area and all over Queensland, Australia, ROCKHAMPTON is cut off by road to the south and the west and hundreds of residents face being flooded this week as the Fitzroy River nears its peak.
The central Queensland city of 75,000 is accessible by road to the north, but authorities have warned inbound traffic will be restricted. Superintendent David Peff said the Bruce Highway was closed at the last possible moment as a safety precaution. “We left it absolutely as late as possible to close that highway – that decision was not made lightly,” he said.
The highway is expected to be closed for about 10 days, and the airport was closed yesterday, for an expected 20 days. Today the Fitzroy River reached 8.8m, ahead of an expected 9.4m peak on Wednesday.
Water is expected to go over the floorboards in about 400 homes when the flood peaks with about 4000 homes expected to be surrounded by water. More than 40 people have moved into an evacuation center at Central Queensland University while many more have sought refuge with friends and family.
However, many residents are opting to stay put, despite authorities cutting access to electricity and possibly water in some inundated areas. Locals in the waterlogged suburb of Depot Hill are using dinghies or kayaks to move about. Those owning boats are acting as a taxi service for neighbors.
In one of the worst affected areas, East Street, The Fitzroy Hotel is continuing to trade, even though water is lapping against its steps. “In the big cities they pay big bucks for canal frontage,” Fitzroy Hotel owner Tony Higgins said. Mr. Higgins said he had a fully stocked cold room and would keep the pub open throughout the disaster, to act as a meeting point for flood-ravaged locals.
The Fitzroy River is expected to reach a height of about 9.4m later this week, a similar level to the devastating 1991 and 1954 floods. After a meeting of emergency service officials in Brisbane today Acting commissioner Alistair Dawson said Queensland could be flood affected for a month.
“Roughly one thousand people have been displaced (living in evacuation centers) across the state,” he said. “The flood-affected area is as big as NSW. “It’s hard to make the call that the worst is behind us.
“It’s a unique event, parts of the state are still in response mode while others are in recovery. I think we’re in the middle of the event.” Emergency Services Queensland spokesman Warren Brisdon said fatigue was becoming a major issue for emergency services crews.
“We’re dealing with fatigue management, some of the (crews) have been at this since before Christmas non-stop,” he said. Forty SES personnel would be deployed from Victoria and 20 from NSW at staggered intervals, he said. Police are re-emphasizing safety warnings after a 41-year-old Mt Isa woman drowned when her vehicle was swept into a river in northwest Queensland overnight.
“We’re just grateful there weren’t more casualties … we’re focused on preventing any more,” Mr. Dawson said. Assistant commissioner Brett Pointing said police were carefully patrolling evacuated areas.
“We’re yet to have a confirmed case of looting in Queensland but it is an area of risk,” he said. He said five extra officers had been deployed to Theodore and Condamine to combat any threat.
Twenty extra police were deployed to Emerald last week to monitor the looting threat, after problems in 2008. At Dalby, trucks are transporting water to the town, Mr. Dawson said.
“We are still asking residents to be very judicious in their use of water to assist the town through this challenging time,” he said. Alpha, Jericho, and Chinchilla were in recovery mode, he said. Flood water had peaked at Surat, two people had self-evacuated and three homes were affected.
St George and its satellite towns were bracing for another round of flooding this week, 10 months after a once-in-a-century flood hit last year. Climate change, shifting weather patterns, and increasing temperatures around the world have made changes to our climate and rainfall. Humans are affecting more and more year by year by such natural disasters and it is expected to in increasing numbers over the years ahead.