Part of Australia’s Queensland hit by once-in-a-century floods, braces for more rain
By Will Ziebell. Reuters•February 1, 2019
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Once-in-a-century flooding in part of the eastern Australian state of Queensland looks set to worsen as the nation’s weather bureau on Saturday warned of more heavy rain in the area.
Some residents have already been evacuated after days of monsoon rains lashed the region around the coastal city of Townsville, in the north of the state, a spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Adam Blazak, a forecaster with the bureau, did not say how many people had been evacuated, but added that some areas had reached “major” flood levels.
“Normally a monsoonal burst might last a few days, but this one’s been going on over a week now and is set to continue for a few more days as well,” he said.
Between 150 mm and 200 mm of rain is expected across Townsville on Saturday – equal to about a month’s average rainfall.
Local authorities issued a number of flood warnings on Saturday morning and told residents to avoid using roads and consider moving to higher ground if conditions worsen.
North Queensland has significant zinc reserves as well as major deposits of silver, lead, copper and iron ore, with Townsville being a major processing center for the region’s base metals.
In stark contrast, wildfires in the southern island state of Tasmania have burned through more than 187,000 hectares of land, fire officials said.
The Tasmanian Fire Service said in a statement on Friday that nearly 600 personnel were working to contain the fires, some of which have been burning for weeks and have destroyed homes.
The statement added that while the last few days have seen favorable conditions for battling the blazes, expected hot and dry weather on Sunday could see bushfires escalate again.
“A number of fires are still volatile and dangerous and fire behavior can change with little warning,” Jeff Harper, the state’s Fire Controller, said on Friday.
Australia endured its hottest month on record in January, with sweltering conditions expected to persist through April. That scorching weather triggered power outages in some areas and sent electricity prices soaring.
North Queensland residents have woken to another day of torrential rain as a once-in-a-100-year big wet rolls on.
More than a metre of rain has been dumped in the past eight days with falls tipped to peak on Saturday.
The flood crisis has stretched along 700 kilometres of coast between Cairns and Mackay due the monsoonal deluge which has caused landslips and flash flooding across the region over the past seven days.
Ross River dam near Townsville reached 208 per cent of capacity by midday Saturday, the highest level since it was built 48 years ago.
The downpour has seen at least 100 homes inundated in and around Townsville and more than 140 insurance claims were lodged on Saturday morning.
Cars, sheds, fridges, livestock, a sea container and a tractor all washed by waters that have burst creeks and rivers.
There have been three landslips in the region, one destabilising an apartment complex. Meanwhile, there have been 28 swift water rescues, including people caught in flash flooding and trapped on roofs.
With the dam at 200 per cent of capacity at 9am Saturday, up to 100 nearby homes were evacuated. People have been told to get out if they feel unsafe as more water is expected and vulnerable properties being sandbagged.
More rain has been forecast across the weekend, with some areas likely to receive up to 400mm a day as the overly active monsoon trough remains almost stationary.
A severe weather warning is in place from Cairns to Bowen, but Townsville is expected be hit the hardest, the Bureau of Meteorology warned late on Friday.
A second severe weather warning has been issued for northwest Queensland, including Mt Isa, where heavy rainfall of up to 125mm, damaging wind gusts and flash flooding is possible.
Further north, coastal communities on the Gulf of Carpentaria have been told to prepare for the highest tides of year as the monsoon trough whips up gale force winds.
Major flood warnings have been issued for the Flinders, Cloncurry, Haughton, Herbert, Murray, Ross, Bohle and Black rivers, along with the Bluewater Creek.