Death toll in Australia floods reaches 22 as water in Brisbane 'swallows up' the city
By Richard Shears
Last updated at 2:53 AM on 13th January 2011
Last updated at 2:53 AM on 13th January 2011
- Thousands forced to evacuate under threat of rising flood waters
- Queensland Premier says situation is 'deeply serious' and that death toll will more than likely increase
- Cost of flood now put at £10b, but disaster could cut one per cent off GDP
Brisbane resembles a ghost town this morning after thousands fled to escape an approaching deluge of biblical proportions.
The usually bustling centre of Australia’s third most populous city was gradually sinking from view as the Brisbane River burst its banks and a 50-mile wide flood spewed out millions of gallons of filthy brown water and huge amounts of debris.
Unconfirmed reports say that at least 22 people have so far died in the north-eastern state of Queensland and a further 67 remain missing from tsunami-like flash floods that tore through townships west of the city this week.
Scroll down for a video report
Submerged: Homes near Ipswich are swallowed up by rising water. The town's mayor described the scenes as 'heartbreaking'
Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh has warned that the death toll is likely to rise as rescue officials gain access to the devastated areas.
Water levels in Brisbane were rising at the rate of a foot every two hours during the course of yesterday, peaking last night at a total depth of more than 14ft and engulfing up to 70,000 homes, creating a waterworld out of what is normally a busy shopping and commercial hub for two million residents.
'I am feeling a sense of horror and awe at the power of the river. Sadly in the coming hours we will see bits of people's homes float down the river,' Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman said, warning the torrent could take three to four days to subside.
Raw sewage began spilling into the river and creeks, prompting authorities to warn of a heightened disease risk as damaged water treatment works polluted the flood waters.
Traffic diversion: The Ipswich motorway, west of Brisbane, is cut off by flood water. At least 22 people have so far died in the Queensland floods
In danger: Waters from the Brisbane River threaten the city's skyscrapers
Dams built to protect Brisbane and outlying towns were spilling floodwaters into swollen rivers. The Port of Brisbane was closed, shutting down Australia's third-busiest container port and a five-million-tonnes-a-year coal-loading facility.
Some of the scenes in Brisbane yesterday were surreal, with early-morning joggers trying to carry on as normal, even though parts of their routes were underwater. Others were distraught.
'This is my whole life, everything is gone. I never thought it would get this bad,' said Kim Hung, manager of the Salt 'n' Pepper catering business, as two friends floated a coffee machine toward higher ground.
Boats and pontoons were ripped from moorings in the Brisbane River and smashed into bridges as the muddy brown tide gathered strength.
At flooded intersections people paddled surfboards through floodwaters, balancing their possessions on the deck of the boards, while boats ferried evacuees to dry ground.
No escape: A trapped cow and two horses seek refuge on a rooftop
Sunk: An entire shopping mall is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane
Rescue crews took advantage of some rare sunshine yesterday afternoon to look for the dozens still missing, feared dead in the flood waters. The military is running relief flights with helicopters and C-130 transports.
'We can take no comfort from that blue sky,' Premier Bligh said.
'The water and the rain have already done their damage. This is a deeply serious natural disaster.'
Brisbane resident Rob Minshull gave a first-person account of living through the floods.
‘Right now I’m looking at a car floating past my house,’ he said.
‘I can see fridges, furniture, sofas – there’s even been a report of a shark sighted.
‘It was a bull shark and it was spotted in a suburban street. We do have sharks in the Brisbane River; they have obviously come over the flood barriers and come looking for food.’
Life-saver: A Blackhawk army helicopter crew member carries a baby to dry land in Gatton, west of Brisbane, after she was rescued and airlifted from floodwaters. It appears as if the child's name has been written on her arm by the rescuers for later identification purposes
Stranded: Flood waters surround a house in Lawrence. Some 200,000 people have been affected by the Queensland disaster, which has caused billions of pounds of damage
Whole buildings were washed away by the force of the water, described by meteorologists as a ‘once in a century event'. The last time Brisbane was hit by serious flooding was in 1974, when 14 people were killed.
Around the city, emergency evacuation centres were mobbed by people – many clutching their pets – who had abandoned their homes rather than risk drowning. Charity groups provided them with air mattresses and hot food.
Among those who chose to remain in and around the city there was a rising sense of panic, isolated outbreaks of violence – and even reports that a bull shark had been spotted swimming in the centre of town.
In suburbs lying just above the level of the rapidly rising Brisbane River fights broke out in supermarkets as the food began to run out.
Other ugly scenes involved a man pointing a shotgun at a police officer who tried to force him to leave his home west of Brisbane for his own good, while in other towns reports came in of homes being looted.
Rescue workers yesterday were able to reach the small town of Grantham, 60 miles west of Brisbane, which had been virtually cut off for some days. They were stunned by the destruction they found.
The town’s pub had been demolished, a house had been carried away by the flood waters, cars were piled on top of one another and mountains of debris had become trapped against trees.
City swells: Brisbane Street in Ipswich city centre has been partially submerged with deep flood water, meaning local residents have to use boats to get about
Paddle-through: Businesses in the Brisbane suburb of Milton, including a McDonald's, sit under several feet of water after the devastating floods
Takeaway: A shopkeeper salvages a coffee machine from his flooded shop in the Brisbane suburb of Milton
Vast damage has also been done to Ipswich, a satellite town to the west of Brisbane, which is home to 15,000 people.
'The water is rising and swallowing up the city. It's really heartbreaking,' said Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.
He added that if anybody was caught looting they would be ‘used as flood markers’ – a reference to the poles placed in rivers to show the depth of the water.
Mobile home: A house finds its resting place after floating away in the raging floods in the town of Grantham, west of Brisbane
Soggy pitch: Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, which hosts international rugby games, is flooded with muddy, chest-deep water
The trouble started after drenching rains in Australia's north-eastern state of Queensland that began in November sent swollen rivers spilling over their banks, inundating an area larger than France and Germany combined.
The crisis escalated when a violent storm sent a 26-foot, fast-moving torrent - described as an 'inland instant tsunami' - down the Lockyer Valley, crashing through the city of Toowoomba and smaller towns to the west of Brisbane on Monday.
The overall cost of the floods, which have covered much of Queensland for the past three weeks, is expected to be at least £10billion.
Samaritan: A man rescues a kangaroo that was helplessly drifting near the bridge at One Mile in Ipswich
Door-to-door: Police in the Brisbane inner city suburb of West End wade through water as they check for stranded residents
Without a paddle: Teenagers make their way through a flooded street in the Brisbane suburb of Breakfast Creek. Thousands of residents of Australia's third-largest city have been evacuated from their homes
The state’s £20billion tourism sector has been devastated and food prices are rising after the floods ruined crops and hit distribution networks.
The biggest floods in a century have crippled the coking coal industry in the mining state, destroying infrastructure, putting a brake on the economy and sending the local currency to four-week lows.
Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coking coal, which is used in steel manufacturing and accounts for more than half of global exports, and is also the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used for power generation.
Watch this space: Floodwaters stretch towards the skyscrapers of Brisbane, seen in the distance, from the outer south-western suburbs
Breaking point: The swollen Brisbane River, which is struggling to contain excess water released from local dams, is ready to burst its banks onto the central business district
One central bank board member last night said that the disaster could cut one per cent off growth - equal to almost $13billion, double the previous highest estimate.
The Australian dollar sank to a fresh four-week low of $0.9803 on the comments from Warwick McKibbin, an academic and a member of the central bank's policy-making board.
Treasurer Wayne Swan in November forecast GDP growth of 3.25 per cent in fiscal 2010-11, up from a three per cent projection, but said spending would be cut to ensure a surplus of A$3.1 billion or 0.2 per cent of GDP in 2012/13.
Shelter: Flood victims evacuated to the RNA Showgrounds lie down on makeshift beds. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane
Spent: An exhausted resident of the suburb of Rocklea collapses after retrieving his family photos and other prized possessions
Map showing the major areas affected by the flood
Food prices are surging around the country as the floods ruin Queensland crops and distribution networks. Prices for tomatoes have leapt about 200 per cent in two weeks, while beef is up 11 per cent and wheat has risen four per cent in four months.
Power company Energex shut power to some low-lying areas of Brisbane, including parts of the financial district, for fear that live power lines could electrify floodwaters. Some 78,000 homes in the southeast of Queensland are without electricity.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1346374/Death-toll-Australia-floods-reaches-22-water-Brisbane-swallows-city.html#ixzz1Atx4Qz7J