Live: Flooding disaster hits Australia’s east coast

Updated 29 January 2013, 12:53 AEST

The New South Wales city of Grafton is being threatened by record floods as the Clarence River laps against levees. Overnight the death toll from the unfolding east coast flood crisis rose to four, with a three-year-old boy dying in Brisbane after suffering head injuries when a tree fell on him on Monday morning. Bundaberg remains in the grip of its worst flood on record, but this morning’s peak in Brisbane has not been as bad as previously feared. Follow our live blog for the latest news and emergency information.

The New South Wales city of Grafton is being threatened by record floods as the Clarence River laps against levees.

Overnight the death toll from the unfolding east-coast flood crisis rose to four, with a three-year-old boy dying in Brisbane after suffering head injuries when a tree fell on him on Monday morning.

The key points this morning:

  • The wild weather has moved south, with widespread flooding across northern NSW.
  • Grafton’s levee is holding back a record 8.1m Clarence River flood.
  • Bundaberg remains in the grip of its worst flooding on record.
  • This morning’s Brisbane flood peak has not been as bad as expected.
  • The flood peak in Ipswich also came in lower than expected.

Emergency links

Follow our live blog for the latest coverage (All times in Brisbane time AEST):

11:53am: Coffs Harbour has emerged largely unscathed from last night’s storm, but the same cannot be said for the town’s marina.

Reporter Jeff Waters says worried boat owners worked through the night moving and securing boats as the rain poured and huge waves crashed over the marina’s northern wall.

Only one boat was damaged but workers fear the Marina itself may be beyond repair.

Floating pontoons are being smashed as massive swells continue to break over the walls above them.

11:36am: Here’s Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk speaking to ABC News 24’s Joe O’Brien.

11:33am: Maryborough update: Flood levels peaked at around 10.7 metres about 8:00am.

11:19am: The Grafton Jockey Club’s Michael Beattie says there’s a “real air of confidence that the levee system is going to hold”.

“There’s been a couple of little minor breaches where there’s been some water coming over the top and the SES have been there and they’ve sandbagged.

“I think everybody sort of thinks we’re probably getting close to being past the worst of it. So there’s a pretty confident air amongst the locals.

“I probably own the lowest set of floor boards on the Grafton side of the river and if it comes over I think I will be the first one in trouble – and I haven’t hit the panic button yet.”

11:12am: Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says there are no reports so far of living areas of homes being flooded.

“I don’t want to say there isn’t any. We’re just saying we’ve had no reports of some at this stage. Once this peak concludes we’ll get a situation report over the whole city.”

He says the flooding has been “less than the model predicted but not by a great extent”, and “in the main it’s not looking too bad.”

ABC reporter Chris O’Brien tweeted this picture of flooding in the inner-city suburb of Milton in Brisbane.

11:05am: The Brisbane River is hitting a minor flood peak in the CBD now. So far the impact appears to be similar to yesterday, with no major inundation of residential properties. There are floodwaters in streets on low-lying parts of the riverside suburb of Milton.

11:00am: We’ve set up a Flickr group for people to upload their shots of the big wet.

10:51am: A house is submerged up to its roof near Grafton.

Roads across the flooded regions are closed because of rising rivers and water damage like this landslide across theGwydir Highway at the Gibraltar Range.

10:34am: Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey says 2,000 homes in Bundaberg have been flooded.

7,500 people across the city have been displaced. More than 1,500 people are in evacuation centres and there have been more than 1,000 air rescues in the last 24 hours.

Mayor Mal Forman says the Burnett River is currently at 9.45 metres and heading for a peak of 9.5m about 2:00pm or 3:00pm.

There have been no reports so far of houses being swept off their stumps as feared late yesterday.

10:30am: Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is speaking in Bundaberg, which he says is the “number one priority of myself and my government.”

He thanks all the emergency workers: “They haven’t had much sleep and they have been working very hard and they are under a lot of stress.”

“I have also been down to the evacuation centre in the civic centre, and I have talked to a number of people who clearly have lost an awful lot, if not everything. But are dealing with this in a very stoic fashion. They are showing a lot of guts, and they aren’t going to give up on this.

“Today it’s all about the people of Bundaberg”.

10:15am: Grafton woman Hayley Hooklin is telling ABC News 24 that the mood in the town is “not good”.

“I have lived in Grafton my whole life and been through a few floods, especially where I used to live in Dovedale which has already been evacuated. I have never seen the river rise this fast in my life.”

10:08am: In Grafton:

In Brisbane: The peak will come in the next hour, expected to be 2.3 to 2.5 metres

In Maryborough: The Mary River will peak at about the same time, up to 150 homes and 30 businesses could be affected.

In the Lockyer Valley: Police are escorting people back into Laidley as the flood threat subsides.

10:00am: In Bundaberg, ambulances are now taking patients from the hospital to the C-130 Hercules plane for evacuation to Brisbane.

The Burnett River is expected to peak tonight or tomorrow morning at 9.5 metres.

The previous highest flood was just under 9m in 1942.

 

9:54am: In Ipswich, Mayor Paul Pisasale is holding a press conference with Wayne Swan, who says the city has “escaped the worst that nature can throw at us.”

“I am told that a maximum of 50 houses have been impacted out here. That is an enormous relief to a lot of people in this community and it is great to see how the state, federal and local governments have worked so well together during this disaster,” Mr Swan said.

The Deputy PM says the Australian Defence Force, already at work in Bundaberg, is on stand-by to help south of the border in flooded areas of New South Wales.

He says a 100-strong ADF task force will move into Bundaberg over the next couple of days to help with the floods.

Swan also pays tribute to “Mud Army” volunteers across the flooded regions and says communities are pulling together.

He says more than 40 local government areas have been declared disaster areas, meaning residents are eligible for disaster assistance.

The cost of the floods has already topped $70 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

 

9:28am: The first of two Defence Force C-130 Hercules transport planes has arrived in Bundaberg to help evacuate patients from the town’s hospital. It’s carrying a medical team and supplies for the flooded city.

Here are some ABC Twitter follows if you need to keep up to date with the Bundaberg situation:

9:21am: Good riddance to Oswald: the weather bureau says the system is finally heading out to sea just south of Sydney. The storm has left a trail of death and destruction from the Gulf of Carpentaria southwards.

9:19am: Here’s Lucy Carter’s latest cross from Grafton. She’s standing in front of the breeze-block levee which is protecting the town.

9:17am: The SES’s Steve Pearce has told ABC News 24 that a “very serious situation is unfolding” in Grafton.

More than 2000 people in Dovedale and North Meadow are being issued with evacuation orders and the rest of the town’s population is being given evacuation warnings.

“They too will have to evacuate if this river continues to rise above that level of 8.1 metres predicted at midday today,” he says.

The SES says it is carrying out multiple flood rescues.

And Mr Pearce warns that the Clarence River could even exceed the new predicted peak of 8.1 metres.

“The heights that it’s now reaching weren’t predicted as of yesterday. The amount of water that has fallen over the Northern Rivers area … has never been seen before. This flooding that we’re seeing now in Grafton has never been seen by a generation. So again, like Queensland, we now have a very serious situation here on the Clarence River at Grafton.”

Some 23,000 people are still isolated by floodwaters across the region.

In Lismore there are evacuation orders for 150 people.

8:49am: This is the map showing at-risk areas in Grafton:

 

8:41am: Premier Campbell Newman has tweeted this aerial shot of Bundaberg this morning.

The flood threat remains, but the weather has officially cleared in Queensland.

8:32am: URGENT: The SES says flood water could be entering the Grafton suburbs of Dovedale and North Meadow“now”, or the areas “will have water starting to enter the levee banks in the very near future.”

“What we’re dealing with here is a flood of record. There has never been a flood of this height in recorded history of Grafton… there isn’t historical data to go on. The river is showing signs of dropping further upstream and that’s what we have to work with at the moment.”

The weather bureau is predicting a “peak near 8.1 metres around noon Tuesday with major flooding.”

8:31am: URGENT: The SES is holding its Grafton presser now. Says the town is under threat from an “unpredictable” flood. An evacuation centre has been set up at the South Grafton High School on Tyson Street. The “indications so far” are that the town’s levee is “not experiencing any major problems”. The peak is due around noon and police say residents should not wait until the last minute before evacuating.

8:30am: The foam is dying down on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast:

8:22am: The wild weather in Sydney has now eased and the SES says it does not expect any more flash flooding.

“We are not expecting any more flash flooding to eventuate given the forecast we’ve had from the Bureau. There is still a chance of strong winds later today as a small low tracks down the coast past Sydney and the Illawarra but we are hopeful that low will not cause any further damage,” the SES’s Phil Campbell says.

8:18am: The latest from Lucy Carter in Grafton.

8:09am: Here’s Lucy Carter’s update from Grafton as the river hits 8 metres:

The evacuation order has now been extended to cover Dovedale and North Meadow.

8:03am: URGENT: An evacuation order has been issued for Dovedale in Grafton.

The levy in the city will overflow at 8.1m to 8.2m.

7:56am: The latest on the Queensland power cuts – some homes have been without power since Sunday.

7:47am: URGENT: The ABC’s Lucy Carter says the Clarence in Grafton is now at 8 metres – “well and truly a record flood”.

7:34am: Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey tells Kerrin Binnie the Bundaberg rescue operation is still going.

7:21am: The BoM says this morning’s Brisbane flood peak is likely to be the similar to yesterday – which could be a relief for many homes and businesses which had been under threat.

The BoM website says:

“Minor flooding is expected along the lower Brisbane River downstream of Moggill, with levels at Jindalee expected to be higher than yesterday. At the Brisbane City gauge, minor flood levels are expected on the peak of the high tides from Tuesday morning to Thursday morning. The highest level is expected on the high tide at 11am Tuesday and is likely to be similar to Monday morning’s high tide level of 2.3 metres but possibly up to 2.5 metres.”

7:15am: The manager of chef Matt Moran’s Brisbane restaurant riverside chats to Karina Carvalho about the rising waters.

7:05am: Wayne Swan says a Hercules transport plane is on its way to Bundaberg to help evacuate patients from the town’s hospital.

7:02am: Grafton is facing a record flood this morning, the ABC’s Lucy Carter is on the scene. Follow her on Twitter at@lucethoughts.

6:55am: The ABC team reports from BrisbaneBundaberg and Grafton – the three main towns in the flood situation this morning.

6:50am: There has been a collective sigh of relief in Ipswich and Logan, as many homes and businesses that had been evacuated have not flooded.

“Instead of thousands of houses, hundreds of houses have been affected – a lot of people will be able to go back into their homes morning,” Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale has said this morning.

Logan Mayor Pam Parker says she has had no reports of homes or businesses flooded from rises in the Albert and Logan rivers.

Energex says 165,000 homes and businesses are still without power across south-east Queensland. Some 400 crews are on the job this morning.

6:30am: The heavy rain seen overnight in Sydney is easing and the winds will not be as bad as was feared earlier.

The weather system is expected to move out to sea by this afternoon.

The BoM says rainfall totals for the rest of the day will only be 5-10mm and the strongest winds this morning will be 60kph.

“Although we’ve received falls of up to 150mm in parts of Sydney overnight and some strong winds, that should start to reduce now,” SES Commissioner Murray Kear told ABC News Breakfast.

Two people have already had to be rescued after their car was trapped by flood waters at St Ives on the north shore.

Qantas says it is expecting operations to return to normal this morning, after the weather caused delays at Sydney airport last night.

The airline says one additional flight will be put on for passengers from Sydney to Brisbane, and other passengers will be helped onto flights throughout the morning.

Sydney airport was operating with a single runway last night.

 

6:13am: Reporter Lucy Carter has just been on ABC News Breakfast updating the situation in Grafton, where the Clarence River is rising fast.

The river was already up to 7.9m at 7:00am local time; it had not been expected to hit that level until 9:00am.

Crowds of locals are watching anxiously to see how much higher the Clarence will go.

The coastal town of Yamba is cut off and travel between Sydney and the Queensland border is at a standstill, with most major roads closed due to flooding.

This dramatic video captures the moment a boat owner became stranded when he swam out to try to save his boat on the flooded Clarence.

6:07am: The Bremer River at Ipswich is falling after peaking at a lower-than-expected 13.9m last night.

The Ipswich Council expects to know the extent of the damage by about 9.30 this morning.

5:59am: ABC Local Radio’s Eliza Rogers says the atmosphere in Bundaberg as day broke was “eerie”, after a night spent listening to the sound of army Black Hawk helicopters lifting people off roofs.

5:50am: The situation in New South Wales this morning:

  • The SES has received 2,800 calls for help in northern New South Wales.
  • 3,000 people are on flood alert in Grafton; evacuation orders in place in Grafton and north Lismore.
  • There are reports of well over 100mm of rain in some Sydney suburbs overnight.
  • Severe weather warnings are in place for much of the state, including Sydney, Hunter, Illawarra, the South Coast and southern Tablelands.
  • 7,000 people are isolated by floodwaters in the state’s north, 20,000 homes are without power
  • Quick links: SES websiteBoM NSW warnings page.

5:37am: Here’s this morning’s early wrap-up from ABC News Breakfast.

5:30am: Brisbane hospitals are on standby to receive patients as authorities prepare to evacuate the BundabergHospital.

Ten high-care patients have already been transferred to Brisbane.

Medical transport hubs are due to be set up in the Bundaberg and Brisbane Airports to help with the transfer of 130 patients. The Australian Defence Force, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and CareFlight are expected to take part in the operation.

The town’s Burnett River is expected to reach a record 10 metres over the next few days – two metres higher than the 2010 floods.

It is feared houses could be swept away in the fast-flowing waters.

Yesterday helicopters were used to rescue about 1,000 stranded residents. About 2,000 people have spent the night in evacuation centres.

5:21am: For a list of the Brisbane streets still closed this morning, go to http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/about-council/council-information-and-rates/news-and-publications/Newsroom/062875

5:15am: Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale tells ABC News Breakfast that “Mother Nature is a little bit on our side at the moment” after the Bremer River peaked lower than expected.

The river peaked at 13.9m last night – a metre lower than expected – and many homes which had been at risk of flooding escaped unscathed.

Around 4am this morning the weather system was located near Tamworth.

 

4:40am:

The Bremer River in Ipswich peaked at below 14m yesterday evening – the predicted high had been 15m.

Councillor Paul Tully from the Ipswich City Council spoke to Queensland local radio from the banks of the Brisbane Riverat Goodna, upstream from the Brisbane CBD.

He says no properties have flooded, which is good news for people living downstream.

“I can’t even hear the river at the moment – I’m at the top of the banks and the river is below me.

“My observations show that no home, no business has flooded here in Goodna. Nothing at all. People were expecting it up above their floorboards yesterday; people got out, they knew what to do.

“There is a possibility of a second peak but at this stage this is fantastic news for Goodna.”

 

4:05am:

Emergency crews are now heading to a property near Grafton in northern NSW where 20 people are reported to be stranded.

The SES says there are reports of localised flooding around Toongabbie and Camden in Sydney’s south-west and are bracing for a busy day.

3:50am:

The latest advice from the weather bureau indicates the Bremer River at Ipswich is now easing from a peak of 13.9m about 9:30pm last night. At 3:00am, the river level at Ipswich was 13.25m and falling.

The Brisbane River is still on track to peak at the Brisbane City gauge about 11am today at a level of 2.6m, about 1.9m lower than the January 2011 flood.

The river is then expected to have multiple minor flood peaks above 2m, coinciding with the high tides, until at least Thursday.

3:30am:

The SES says it has received more than 2,800 calls for assistance in northern New South Wales.

The Clarence River is expected to peak later this morning and evacuation orders are in place for parts of Grafton andnorth Lismore.

Becky Gollings from the New South Wales SES says crews have been out overnight helping those affected.

“Most of those jobs have been on the north coast and mid north coast of New South Wales and we’ve been seeing lots of things like trees down and leaking or damaged roofs.

“We’ve also had our volunteers out in the field sandbagging a lot of homes and businesses in places like Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Grafton.”

Meanwhile, the weather bureau has issued a new flood warning for the Albert and Logan Rivers south of Brisbane, with rainfall expected to continue throughout Tuesday morning.

 

2:25am:

The Bremer River was originally expected to peak early yesterday evening but Jeff Carey, from the weather bureau’s Brisbane office, says it is always difficult to give an exact prediction.

“We’ve got the Bremer River and also Warrill Creek responding at the same time, so these peaks – it’s very hard to understand exactly when both those floods are going to move into the Bremer River at Ipswich. So there’s a bit of a timing issue there, but within six hours is about usually how good we can get them.”

 

1:55am:

The weather bureau says the Bremer River at Ipswich, west of Brisbane, is close to peaking but the situation is still changing.

The river is predicted to peak near 15 metres on Tuesday morning, which is four metres below 2011 levels, but still enough to flood hundreds of homes.

The weather bureau has reissued warnings for the Bremer and the lower Brisbane River.

You can read the latest warnings for the Bremer and lower Brisbane rivers here

UPDATE: The bureau later changed the information about the Bremer – see our 3:50am update.

1:20am:

Ian Hatton gives us a sense of scale of the flooding situation faced in North Bundaberg yesterday. He snapped a group of residents evacuating by boat as helicopters continued operations overhead.

 

 

12:55am:

There has been a slight reprieve for people in Bundaberg. The SES says floodwaters in the town have dropped slightly.

However, a spokesman says the water will continue to rise and fall over the next two to three days.

Bundaberg has already broken its previous record flood level of 9m, which was set in 1893. On Monday night the Burnett River hit 9.3m.

The weather bureau still expects a peak to occur on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but it says the river is currently steady.

 

12:50am:

BOM has updated its severe weather warning for NSW. Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald was over the North West Slopes and Plains east of Narrabri at midnight and is continuing to move south.

The storm will reach metropolitan Sydney and the Illawarra coastal areas at dawn, and may bring flash flooding, destructive winds and abnormally high tides.

Heavy rainfalls, which may lead to flash flooding are forecast with rain and thunderstorms for the Metropolitan, Mid North Coast, Hunter and Central Coast, Illawarra and South Coast forecast districts and parts of the Central Tablelands forecast districts.

Rain, although still falling, has eased in the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands, and the risk of heavy rainfall leading to flash flooding will contract southwards during the morning.

Read the full update here

 

12:35am:

Here are the latest predicted flood peaks for Queensland from the Bureau of Meteorology:

Ipswich: Major flood peak near 15.0 metres during Monday night.

Moggill: Peaking below the minor flood level (10.0m) at about 9.5 metres overnight Monday.

Jindalee: Peaking near the minor flood level (6.0 metres) early Tuesday morning, about 7.0 metres below the January 2011 flood.

Brisbane: Multiple minor flood peaks above 2.0 metres will coincide with the peak of high tides between Monday and, at least until, Thursday, with the most significant of 2.6 metres about 11am Tuesday.

Bundaberg: Further small rises on Tuesday. A peak above 9.3 metres is expected late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Walla: Rises up to 24.0 metres on Tuesday.

You can view the latest BOM warnings here

 

12:30am:

Lachlan Patterson has sent us this photo of cane fields turning into an inland sea on the outskirts of Murwillumbah in northern NSW yesterday:

12:15am:

On Monday night Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said he was increasingly confident the Bremer River would peak at 14 metres, which would mean significantly less flooding than an earlier prediction of a 15-metre high.

“If it stops at 14 we’re going to be a very happy city, that means the pressures on our city and some of the houses won’t be there, there’ll only be a few houses that’ll be inundated and there’ll be a lot of people back in their homes tomorrow.”

12:13am:

Arveen Singh has sent us in this picture of a tree that has collapsed onto a Forest Lake house in Brisbane’s south on Monday. Please take care. Trees can fall due to soggy ground even after the rain has passed.

12:10am:

The ABC’s David Spicer gives Lateline an update on the situation in NSW, as storms and floodwater travel through the state’s north, causing flooding in several cities:

12:05am:

Look back over the flooding events in Queensland and New South Wales on Monday in Lateline’s wrap up of the day:

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2013-01-29/live-flooding-disaster-hits-australias-east-coast/1080046

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