Australian Floods Sweep South into New South Wales
After six weeks of extraordinary monsoon rains down the east coast of Australia, more than 60 cities and towns have suffered catastrophic flooding, the loss of 32 lives, 51 still missing in the Lockyer Valley, evacuations from tens of thousand of inundated homes, and some of them more than once.
As the latest rains swamp the valleys of north western and eastern New South Wales the areas underwater now cover an area almost twice the size of Texas.
The Queensland emergency services are working on five fronts: 1. Recovery in Rockhampton, 2. evacuations of Chinchilla, Dalby and St. George in the state's south west facing second flood peaks, 3. the Lockyer Valley disaster of Tuesday where search and recovery proceeds - 4. Ipswich city, and 5. the capital, Brisbane, population almost 2 million.
Here where I'm located 150 kms north of Brisbane, and with roads cut to Brisbane in the south and Gympie to the north, supermarkets shelves are emptying quickly, and I was told in a conversation with a Brisbane resident this afternoon that she was unable to buy milk and bread there this morning.
Ipswich city has not quite experienced its flood peak, as the Bremer River is swollen to 19.4 metres above its normal level as I write, and will peak at 20.5 (63 feet) or more metres later this afternoon which exceeds the worst in its history. 4000 homes are already underwater there. If the record peak of 20.5 occurs the damage to the city infrastructure will be catastrophic.
Brisbane city is already inundated through 35 suburbs with a level of 4.16 metres above its normal and the peak is expected to reach 5.5 metres (17 feet) at 4AM on Thursday morning.
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, assured Brisbane city council residents a few minutes ago that water remains safe to drink with three days supply in the reservoirs. Power has been cut throughout the central business district and between Ipswich and Brisbane 95,000 homes are without power, and won't have services restored for some days until waters subside.
Because 20,000 Brisbane homes will be inundated, two evacuation stations have been set up on high ground in Brisbane for those who cannot find shelter with relatives or friends elsewhere. Because Brisbane's suburbs in the north and west are quite hilly there are safe areas within the city for people to retreat to.
Although the economic impact on Australia from this ongoing disaster will certainly exceed the relative impact of Hurricane Katrina on the US - the comparison ends there, since the level of servicing by State Emergency Services personnel has minimized fatalities by anticipating the need for orderly evacuation in every situation, with one exception: the unprecedented flash flood disaster in the Lockyer Valley, likened to an inland tsunami. The cost to Queensland's economy to date is estimated by the State Treasurer this afternoon at Au$10 billion.
The social impact is immeasurable as tens of thousands of people in the 60 cities and towns made homeless for an indefinite period sort out their lives and many their lost businesses. Despite the scope of the disaster many of those interviewed by journalists are remaining philosophic and some quite comic, even while wiping tears from the corners of their eyes.
But for now, the watch continues for most of us via television and online news as the river in Brisbane rises and the full extent of the damage is realized. As I wrote yesterday - the truly daunting part of this continuous disaster is that the weather bureau sees another two months of similar monsoonal drenching of this saturated region, in monthly cycles. It is certainly testing the courage and grit of all Australians, and especially those who have already lost everything they'd worked for.
Tags: Australian Floods , Queensland Floods , Chris Gilbert , Lamp Post Media
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