Locals tell of surreal flood scenes as Army choppers move in
BUNDABERG residents have described 'surreal scenes' of people being plucked from their homes in 'neck high' floodwaters as like that out of a 'war zone'.
Bundaberg News-Mail chief photographer Max Fleet, who took to the skies in a helicopter Monday afternoon, said he could not believe the scenes.
Fellow photographer Scottie Simmonds was caught on the northern side of the city where dozens of rescues were being carried out.
Mr Fleet said it was ''really emotional' for his colleague as he both photographed and helped rescue locals.
"He just said it choked him up to see people in such despair,'' Mr Fleet told APN.
Mr Fleet said he understood houses were being swept away.
He flew over Tallon Bridge amid reports that it was going to be lost. It wasn't.
Mr Fleet said he could not believe what he saw.
"These main streets are surreal to see high torrents up to the neck.''
"It's just bizarre. It's like a war zone.''
Mr Simmonds told ABC TV he would not even want to hazard a guess how many people were still waiting to be rescued by the helicopters in the area.
He said there were 'pretty extreme'' scenes as Army and AGL rescue helicopters went to the aid of people in wheelchairs, young families, kids and even dogs.
Mr Simmonds managed to get out of the area.
"When I left there there were still (a dozen) helicopters in the air,'' he said.
There are about 100 Australian Defence Force personnel involved in the operation - and now four Blackhawk helicopters.
The ADF are expected to help evacuate patients from Bundaberg Hospital which is on the edge of the flood zone.
About 2000 people have been stranded by the rapidly rising, record flood waters.
Mr Simmonds said many people had wanted to stay in their homes thinking the flooding would not be as bad as previously predicted.
But as floodwaters rose,he said, people realised it was going to be worst than anyone expected.
"At the end of it a lot of them started to panic,'' he said.
Earlier in the day, two Army Blackhawk helicopters were operating in the area while three AGL Action Rescue Helicopters were focusing on medical missions.
There are another 12 civilian aircraft involved.
Sunshine Coast based helicopter pilot John McDermott is among those carrying out rescues.
Premier warns homes could be swept away by nine metre river
Earlier Premier Campbell Newman warned houses could be swept from their stumps as Bundaberg becomes the biggest concern in the Queensland flood crisis.
Mr Newman, at the latest briefing at Emergency Management Queensland, said experts had estimated the Burnett River, already at least 9m, was flowing at 40 knots an hour.
Mr Newman said it was likely the velocity of the river flow would result in houses being swept downstream.
He said there were more than 2000 properties affected and many thousands of people needed to evacuate in the North Bundaberg.
Mr Newman said the road to exit was now closed and the remaining residents would have to be airlifted out.
"It is a grave situation in Bundaberg," he said.
"We are at a point where we've never seen floodwaters like this before."
Mr Newman said the government would stand by victims "in the days, weeks, months ahead".
"Sadly Queensland is facing a major crisis again throughout this state and its people will rise to the challenge," he said.
"To those right now in the grip of this disaster, you are not alone, this team here, the state emergency management centre and the local government disaster management groups are doing everything they can.
"Together we will get through this."
AGL Action Rescue Helicopter CEO Dave Donaldson said he two choppers had been flying rescue missions and evacations all weekend while a third was brought in at lunch time today.
He said the helicopters were focusing on medical emergencies with some elderly patients anxious as health conditions escalated and they ran out of medicines.
Many long-time residents had stayed put because they did not think they would be flooded.
LATEST ACROSS QUEENSLAND
There will be significant flooding from the Rockhampton catchment, particularly the Fitzroy River. But the flooding is not expected until next weekend as the waters move down that system.
Severe flooding down stream from the Awoonga Dam. Winds battering the city.
Burrum Heads has sewerage issues and the Maryborough CBD has begun to flood.
If it rises another two metres as expected, hundreds of properties could be flooded. Eidsvold has no power. There are flooding issues in Mundubbera and Gayndah, the latter cut in half.
Gympie faces a record 21m peak as the Mary River floods the area, two metres higher than 2011.
LOCKYER VALLEY - LAIDLEY, GATTON, GRANTHAM
Floodwaters at Laidley are higher than the 2011 floods which claimed 19 lives. The floodwaters are slow rising, not the rapid wall seen back then.
Bremer River expected to peak at 9pm on Monday at 15m in the CBD area, at least 4m less than 2011 floods. More than 200 properties, many at Goodna which were still recovering from the last floods, will be inundated. Rapidly unfolding situation.
The Brisbane River is expected to peak at 2.6m, which is about two metres less than 2011.
The Centenary suburbs, hit hard in the 2011 floods in Brisbane's outer-west, will have flooding 7m lower.
There are 100 road closures. About 1250 businesses and 3600 homes are expected to experience flooding.
Locals are talking about the largest floodwaters in 60 years, believing it to be worse than 1974.
Some of the most dramatic pictures of the crisis so far below
Residents ordered to undergo mandatory evacuations
RESIDENTS in North Bundaberg have been ordered to undergo mandatory evacuations after the Burnett River broke its banks.
Emergency services urged residents to seek higher ground at the Oakwood School.
Authorities are preparing for an unprecedented 9.5 metre flood.
A press conference in Bundaberg held just after midday was told there was an imminent danger of people being killed.
A self-evacuation order was made on Sunday but police say many people chose not to evacuate.
Emergency services say there are still several thousand people still in North Bundaberg.
Residents can use Mount Perry Road and turning onto Rosedale Road to reach the Oakwood School.
Engineers and the local disaster management group are modelling what effect the Burnett River breaking its banks will have on the city's flood.
Mayor Mal Forman said people needed to get out now.
"It's very important, very urgent there is no discussion on this one," he said.
Choppers flying into Lockyer Valley to help residents
TWO black hawk helicopters will fly to the Lockyer Valley to help with the flood response
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan tweeted the the helicopters would be deployed from the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Oxley to support emergency services in the Lockyer Valley.
It follows two Australian Defence Force helicopters being deployed to Bundaberg on Sunday.
Australians will pull together in disaster says Abbott
DRAWING a line between the unpredictable nature of Australia's weather and the way our country rallies in a crisis, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott noted the timing - Australia Day weekend.
"I suppose it's interesting, is it not, that here on the Australia Day weekend we have something that is so typically Australian," he said.
"A natural disaster which is being dealt with as it so often is by Australians pulling together to help each other when times are tough.
"It doesn't look like it's going to be as bad as the flood crisis of 2011 but it is a serious situation.
"I want to say how impressed I am by the way the emergency service machine has swung into action here in Queensland.
"I want to say how impressed I am by the way the people of Queensland have rallied behind each other in this crisis."
Motorcyclist's body found, third flood death so far
A MOTORCYCLIST has become the third flood-related death in Queensland after his bike was swept off a bridge in the Brisbane suburb of Greenbank.
Police said the man disappeared when he let go off his bike to grab a rope thrown by witnesses who tried to rescue him about 11:30pm Sunday night.
The Bureau of Meteorology says rainfall rates have eased across the Brisbane River catchment in the last 3 hours, and no further significant flood-producing rainfall is expected over the next few days.
Sandbagging operation in full swing in Brisbane
The sandbagging operation is in full swing at SES headquarters in Newmarket in Brisbane's north.
There are four cars at a time filing through the HQ car park as Brisbane residents begin preparing for floods early.
There is a long queue of cars liked up in Burnley Steet waiting to enter the car park and it looks like it will continue all day as those in danger try to protect their homes from the worst of the big wet in their backyards.
Airports hit as flooding and winds cancel flights
SOME airports in south east Queensland have remained open but flights are being delayed or diverted.
The Sunshine Coast Airport reopened on Monday morning after it was forced to close its doors on Sunday and cancel all flights.
Airport management has urged travelers to check on the status of their flights through Jetstar and Virgin Airlines.
The Brisbane Airport is also open.
Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman Leonie Vandeven said some flights were getting in and departing but others were being cancelled or delayed.
Travelers should expect delays across the air travel network.
Brisbane Airport has warned travelers to be careful walking through car parks where a lot of water has flowed into.
The Gold Coast airport has been closed indefinitely.
Flights from Japan scheduled to fly into the Gold Coast were diverted to Brisbane on Monday morning while Virgin Australia flights from Sydney were cancelled.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there were wind gusts of up to 87 kilometers per hour at 9:30am on Monday.
Travelers can check their flight status on airport websites.
Financial help at hand for flood victims
FLOOD-hit Queenslanders may be able to apply for financial help from the State Government.
Communities Minister Tracy Davis said disaster relief was now available for those in Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Fraser Coast, North Burnett council areas to help their recovery efforts.
The help is being rationed through the Personal Hardship Assistance Scheme.
Ms Davis said this was a small amount to help deliver immediate help for those needing food, clothing or accommodation.
"A grant of up to $180 per person, up to a maximum of $900 for a family of five or more, is available to eligible people experiencing genuine hardship," Ms Davis said.
Essential Household Contents Grants, Structural Assistance Grants and Essential Services Safety Reconnection Scheme Grants would also be available for individuals and families affected by the flooding caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald.
People who are experiencing personal hardship due to the storm should contact the Department of Communities on 1800 173 349 for support.
Stay out of floodwaters
POLICE and firefighters are pleading with people to stay out of floodwaters as they scramble to rescue up to 30 people who have taken to the roofs of their homes.
Premier Campbell Newman said Bundaberg was facing the worst flood in its history, beating the level set in 1942.
The army's Blackhawk helicopters are on standby to help people in the region while the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter has been scrambling already to save people..
In Gympie, the body of a missing 27-year-old man has reportedly been found in Widgee Creek, west of the town.
The ABC this morning tweeted that the man's body had been found.
The man went missing after his car was caught in flood waters on Sunday, with his two companions rescued.
5000 homes and businesses face flooding in Brisbane
ALMOST 5000 homes and businesses could flood in the Brisbane area while Gympie, Bundaberg and Ipswich are all bracing for river peaks which could cause widespread inundation.
Emergency services have had another extremely busy night with severe weather continuing to impact central and south east Queensland.
The State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 1,800 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to 4am Monday.
More than 830 of these jobs were concentrated in the North Coast region, particularly around Bundaberg.
There were more than 550 jobs in the South East Region particularly around the Lockyer Valley, Laidley and the Gold Coast. Brisbane also recorded a large volume of requests for SES assistance.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) personnel responded to approximately 53 swift water rescue cases across Queensland yesterday.
Overnight swift water rescue technicians attended 9 cases in Worongary, Jimboomba, Laidley, Greenbank, Fernvale, Moorina (near Caboolture), Bundaberg North and Ducklo.
The AGL Action Rescue Helicopters from both Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast have been busy carrying out rescues, including flood stricken families at Pacific Haven, east of Childers.
Emergency Alerts were issued overnight for Moreton Bay, Somerset and the Lockyer Valley.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has stressed that the flooding will not be as severe as in 2011 when there was total devastation in Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba regions.
Brisbane City Council has released a series of flood maps showing likely inundation.
But based on current modelling, the Premier has warned:
Brisbane River flooding to affect about 3,600 homes and 1,250 businesses, compared with 12,500 homes and 2,500 businesses in 2011.
Brisbanetimes.com.au reports that houses in Brisbane's inner north will suffer the worst of the predicted flooding.
The maps show Windsor, Breakfast Creek, Albion and parts of Newstead, Lutwyche and Milton will be worst hit by the flooding predicted to peak at midday on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
Premier sets up Queensland flood appeal
AS FEROCIOUS weather continues to lash the state, Premier Campbell Newman has launched the Queensland Flood Appeal 2013 in partnership with Red Cross.
The LNP Government has funnelled $1 million into the fundraiser to "kick start" the initiative.
Mr Newman said Cyclone Oswald has brought destruction across the length of Queensland, from the Cape to the New South Wales border.
"Some communities have been particularly hard hit with extensive damage caused by flooding and destructive storm cells.
"The money raised through the appeal will go directly to helping those in need."
Similar flood fundraisers by the State Government have marked the two previous wet seasons.
"Financial support at times like these can make a huge difference to the lives of those affected," Mr Newman said.
Donations can be made by calling 1800 811 700 or visiting www.redcross.org.au.
Rivers to peak Monday night, Tuesday noon and again and Wednesday
Bremer River at Ipswich to peak about midnight on Monday, and again late Tuesday.
Brisbane River to peak about noon on Tuesday, and again at noon on Wednesday.
Bremer River at Ipswich to peak about midnight on Monday, and again late Tuesday.
Brisbane River expected to peak at 2.6 metres, compared to 4.46 metres in 2011.
Bremer River expected to peak at 14.45 metres, compared to 19.4 metres in 2011.
Bundaberg and Gympie are also on high alert with the Burnett and Mary Rivers rising.
Police are also urging residents in parts of the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, to evacuate.
For help during a flood or storm call the SES on 132 500
For life-threatening emergencies call 000
In its latest warning issued at 5am, the Bureau of Meteorology said flood warnings remain current for:
- The Boyne, Calliope, Baffle and Kolan River catchments,
- The Burnett River,
- The Connors, Isaac, Don, Lower Dawson and Fitzroy Rivers within the Fitzroy River catchment,
- The Cherwell-Burrum Rivers,
- The Mary River,
- The Sunshine Coast streams, including the Maroochy and Mooloolaba Rivers and Coochin Creek,
- The Brisbane River,
- The Logan and Albert Rivers.
- The Nerang and Coomera Rivers.
Minor to moderate flooding is occurring in the Pine and Caboolture Rivers and in Burpengary Creek.
A severe weather warning remains current for heavy rainfall in the area south of Brisbane to the NSW Border.
For the latest weather information see: www.bom.gov.au/qld/forecasts
Widespread rainfall totals of 75-150mm have been recorded since 9am Sunday across the warning area, with isolated totals of up to 350mm.
The heaviest rainfall has been recorded in Laidley Creek, Lockyer Valley and Lower Brisbane. Further heavy rainfall is possible during Monday.
At 4.10am, the ABC reported that the Telstra network has been disrupted in Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Mareeba and Mount Isa, with many people unable to call triple-0.
Telstra customers have been asked to use alternative carriers to call triple-0 if possible.
The Rockhampton Telstra exchange has a total outage and no calls can be sent or received.
On the Sunshine Coast, one of the most spectacular aftermaths of the storm has been ocean foam all over Alexandra Headland, including on the road.