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Raging floods bear down on Brisbane

Updated January 11, 2011 16:19:00

The Brisbane River has broken its banks amid dire predictions of the biggest floods to hit Queensland's capital since 1974.

The weather bureau says the river is expected to reach major flood levels tomorrow afternoon and rise further on Thursday.

It is believed 9,000 homes will be inundated as floodwaters race towards the city.

Some areas have received up to 150 millimetres of rain in three hours.

Water is also rising quickly in the Bremer River at Ipswich, west of Brisbane, where it is expected to peak close to 19 metres.

Police are preparing residents and business owners in the inner-city suburb of West End for the possibility of evacuations later today.

The Brisbane City Council says more than 200 homes and businesses along the river are at risk, most at Rocklea, Albion, Milton and Auchenflower.

Police are advising all residents in low-lying parts of Strathpine and Dayboro to the north of Brisbane to evacuate to higher ground immediately.

Caboolture is isolated so evacuation out of town by car is impossible. Police are saying that people in low-lying areas who can should move to higher ground or prepare for rising water.

The threat to Brisbane comes after an inland tsunami swept through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley yesterday, leaving nine people dead and 66 missing.

That wave of brown water is now making its way towards the Brisbane River and catchment areas, where the capital's defence of Wivenhoe Dam is struggling to hold back the deluge.

Officials have had to increase the amount of water being released from Wivenhoe because of major inflows coming from the Lockyer and Brisbane valleys.

The river has broken its banks in parts of West End and water is reportedly slowly creeping onto roads in low-lying areas there.

Buildings in Fortitude Valley and businesses at Eagle Street Pier in the city are also being evacuated.

The potentially looming disaster in the city is being made worse by cut and congested mobile phone lines, making communication difficult. Vodafone customers have been without reception for most of the morning.

People have been asked to stay off telephones unless absolutely necessary to avoid congesting lines for emergency services.

Staying dry

Jodie Craig, who owns the Joynt Hotel on Montague Road in West End, is trying to move belongings to the upper floors of the hotel.

"Up until last night I was freaking out a bit and then this morning I've just been watching the news and I guess I should start doing something," she said.

"I'm going to take all my electrical equipment and stuff that's worth a lot of money upstairs and hopefully it'll be safe up there."

Ms Craig says the ground floor of the hotel was completely submerged in the 1974 floods and she hopes the Wivenhoe Dam is enough to hold back the water this time.

She says she has been without phone reception for several hours and is unsure if police are wanting people to evacuate.

"The road's pretty busy. It's not like there's anyone in uniform telling us to leave," she said.

"I'm really clueless as to what's going on. People are just telling me West End's been told to evacuate. I really don't know. I'll just get my stuff up."

The council in Ipswich has downgraded its expected flood peak of 19 metres.

The Bremer River is now likely to peak tonight at 17.2 metres - two metres lower than during the disastrous 1974 floods.

About 400 streets are expected to be fully or partially under water.

The Ipswich showgrounds has been set up as the town's major evacuation centre. It will also accommodate pets.

No insurance

Being so close to the river means Ms Craig is unable to get flood insurance.

"That's why I wanted to get all the stuff that's the most important to me," she said.

"I mean I'm not going to worry about furniture and things like that, there's not really much I can do."

Police say they have not ordered any evacuations of West End residents or businesses yet but with a high tide expected in just over two hours and a large volume of water still moving down the Brisbane River, that situation could change.

Police have stationed several officers along Riverside Drive between Orleigh Park and the Go Between Bridge at West End.

They are now turning back traffic trying to access Riverside Drive after the decision was made earlier today to close the road.

Translink says bus services have been suspended in the Caboolture, Redcliffe and Burpengary areas because of flooding.

Train services through to the Sunshine Coast are still running.

A telephone hotline - 1300 993 191 - has been set up for people seeking information on friends and relatives caught up in the flooding disaster.

Tags: disasters-and-accidents, floods, weather, rainfall, australia, qld, albion-4010, auchenflower-4066, brisbane-4000, milton-4064, rocklea-4106

First posted January 11, 2011 12:39:00

Comments (9)

Comments for this story are closed, but you can still have your say.

  • Magoo:

    11 Jan 2011 2:49:02pm

    It is time for our national and state leader to start leading rather than uttering platitudes about 'dark days' and 'bracing for worse to come'.

    A real state leader would be declaring a state of emergency for the whole of SE Qld, effective immediately. Close down commerce so that people can get home in daylight hours, before the flooding closes down public transport.

    A real national leader would be mobilizing a battalion of defence force personnel, not just a company of them. The experience that a few of us had in 1974 might also be useful if it were called upon now rather than after the low over Fiji drifts this way. SES staff are already at the end of their reasonable work cycle; exhausted, sleep deprived and traumatized.

    If they don't act (rather than talking) those same leaders will be reading out another littany of sorrow tomorrow and an even longer one a week from now.

    Agree (2) Alert moderator

    • Jim:

      11 Jan 2011 3:24:27pm

      Speaking as a member of the defence force (and indeed a member of one of the battalions which is expecting that we might be called to Qld), what exactly are a battalion of us going to do? We're certainly not going to be able to turn the flood around, and there's no point trying to repair infrastructure before it is broken. You also really don't want to start evacuating parts of SE Qld till you have to: moving tens or hundreds of thousands of people is something you only want to do when there is literally no other alternative, and at this point in time there is absolutely no way it is worth it.
      Sending a battalion into the area at the moment would be token, and it'd chew through resources that can be used for other purposes.
      The best that can be done is to wait and see how bad this gets. Once the floods have peaked is the time to start working out what additional ADF assets to send to SE Qld, not before. Madly demanding 'action' be taken on issues is not an especially useful way to manage a crisis.

      Agree (9) Alert moderator

  • dee booth:

    11 Jan 2011 2:52:58pm

    Please update your flood map of affected towns!
    As of last weekend, Stanthorpe was starting to flood.
    We suspect that the bridge over Granite Street has collapsed under the surge of water.
    Evacuations have taken place.
    Local growers with high capacity dams have seen them break and add to the extreme conditions.
    Quart Pot Creek is 80m+ wide at many areas - all roads near CBD are cut.
    The two bridges still open have the water lapping at road edge.
    If they close then no movement to NSW on the New England Hwy will be the result.
    The tremendous speed and roar of the water beggars belief.
    Aerial view would be quite something!

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • oktobuy1:

    11 Jan 2011 3:00:56pm

    The flood pictures really bring home the scale of this event to this high and dry Sydneysider. I have been in a flood back in 1988 and noticed that low lying areas were occupied (in that instance) by lower income families. I noticed flood indicators on roads where I had never seen water before and realised that lower lying areas are cheaper for a reason. I hope the insurance industry is big enough to weather the storm, although many low income families will probably not have insurance, as was the case with the '88 flood in Western Sydney.

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  • Sinbad:

    11 Jan 2011 3:03:35pm

    A real leader lets the professionals do their jobs and gives support as necessary.
    Leave your politicking until after the rain stops Magoo.

    Agree (2) Alert moderator

  • Ford:

    11 Jan 2011 3:08:09pm

    Apparently it's also time to start using a human tragedy to score cheap political points.
    Remarkable. The body count isn't done, the waters are still rising...and people are seriously trying to score partisan political points already?
    How about we focus on caring (or pretending to care for some) about the victims and the crisis at hand, and wait for a chance to use the deaths of however many people as a springboard to an electoral victory later?

    Agree (1) Alert moderator

  • S Chugg:

    11 Jan 2011 3:14:46pm

    Can you please advise if any countries have offered assistance. I know Australia offers assistance to many countries, (resources and monies) it would be interesting to know if any countries have assisted us in a time of need. My heart goes out to all those affected.

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  • mitch:

    11 Jan 2011 3:18:13pm

    As a person that lived through the 74,
    I can feel for the people of toowoomba
    and out lying areas.

    Our lives were turned upside down.
    If anyone is reading this and
    are in toowoomba, please
    send our heartfelt sorry
    to the families that lost loveones.

    To my fellow QLDer's, we can get through this.


    The QLD Goverment needs to act very soon
    to ensure that this does not happen again
    in the near future.

    Premier, spend the money and fix the problem.
    Peoples lives depend on you and your
    goverment.

    From the Mitchell family at Burpengary QLD

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  • mark:

    11 Jan 2011 3:22:23pm

    I agree completely with Magoo, situations like this demand instand and concise decision making - it all seems like the 'Leadership' are just waiting to see what happens and then the usual events will take place - too little action far too late!

    Why is the army not sandbagging and helping - it's left to individuals and the SES......

    Seems like Brisbane is waiting to become a casualty rather then taking pre-emptive measures!

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