Two killed in Australia floods

Monday, January 10, 2011

SYDNEY - Residents were warned to get ready to defend their properties as Queensland’s flood crisis rolled south toward Brisbane, Australia’s third-biggest city, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The warning came too late for the 90,000 people of Toowoomba, 126 km west of the capital of the northeastern state, as a flash flood raced through city streets.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner Tom Dawson said two people had died in Toowoomba as torrents of water carried away cars and sped through buildings.

“Out of 90 incidents, 32 were directly life threatening and we had crews rescuing people,” Dawson told national news agency AAP.

National broadcaster ABC had reported that five were missing after torrential rain sent two-metre swells down some city streets, submerging a bridge and toppling a building.

“This is unbelievable damage. There’s water literally pouring out of the front doors of shops,” Toowoomba Mayor Peter Taylor said. The floods had torn up the railway lines, and two vehicles “are virtually unrecognisable that have floated and smashed into the rail”, he said.

Officials said they hoped the Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane’s main reservoir, would help the city avoid a repeat of 1974 floods because they are now able to regulate the flow of floodwaters.

The 1974 floods inundated 6,700 homes and claimed 14 lives. Wivenhoe, 80 km west of Brisbane, was opened in 1984.

A rescue helicopter has been sent to Toowoomba to pluck people from the floodwaters and one is also in position in Dalby, a city of 12,000 people 224 km west of Brisbane.

The Myall Creek in Dalby was expected to reach a peak higher than the 3.5 metres of just two weeks ago that saw water enter 100 houses.

Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown said evacuation centres were open and those who felt under threat were urged to leave their properties.

“At the moment, it’s 3.55 metres and rising,” he said. “We do now have a prediction of a peak of 3.8 metres,” he said. “Evacuations are still occurring as we’re hoping the peak will be in place before nightfall.”

Central Queensland has been awash for weeks with 200,000 people affected, 22 towns with closed roads and commercial life disrupted.

Coal exports are in jeopardy as well as harvests of wheat, cotton and sugar cane as the downpours have inundated an area the size of France and Germany combined.

will not be displayed