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Townsville flooding forces hundreds to evacuate, leaves police clinging to trees after dam gates fully opened

Hundreds of Townsville residents were evacuated and two police officers caught in floodwaters after floodgates to the city’s dam were fully opened overnight.

The officers were helping to evacuate people in Hermit Park when they themselves became trapped by rapidly rising floodwaters.

Their police vehicle was washed away and they were left clinging to trees for about half an hour before a swift water rescue crew arrived.

Crews also rescued two people trapped on the roof of their car in nearby Hyde Park.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Katarina Carroll said authorities had conducted 18 swift water rescues and assisted with 1,100 relocations in the last 24 hours.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said several thousand homes may have been inundated overnight.

But she said that doesn’t necessarily mean they have water over their floorboards.

“They’ll do the damage assessment but that could be the case because some houses are high-set,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But of course for those in low-set houses a lot of those people will be inundated.

“The modelling that’s been done by the local authorities — many people are in high-set homes so it might be water under the house.

“There are major flood warnings for the Flinders, Cloncurry River, the Leichhardt River, the Horton River, the Ross River and the upper Burdekin Dam.

“We also have a number of isolated communities Normanton, Coorumba, Doomadgee, McKinlay and Julia Creek.

“There is still heavy rainfall across this area this monsoonal trough just doesn’t seem to want to move much at all.”

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SES Regional Manager Daryl Camp said the workload continued to be demanding with flood boats and helicopters being used to evacuate people.

“We’re now getting more requests all morning for people to be evacuated,” he said.

“It’s a very long process unfortunately to move so many people.”

Approximately 1,000 people have taken shelter at evacuation centres.

The emergency shelter at Cranbrook is at capacity but a sixth shelter located at Walker Street has been set up to provide another 50 beds.

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The opening of the floodgates at Townsville’s Ross River Dam released 1,900 cubic metres of water per second.

The dam level is slowly falling, recorded at 230 per cent capacity at 10:00am on Monday, down from a peak of 244.8 per cent at 2:00am.

Residents are being urged to conserve water as the flooding has caused a number of pipes to burst and put pressure on the Douglas Treatment Plant.

‘Very, very long couple of days’

A damaged car sits in floodwaters/

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said hundreds of local residents had fled their homes and were now sheltering in evacuation centres.

She said the Local Disaster Management Group was looking at opening more centres this morning.

“What we’ve seen overnight, the amount of water coming down, has affected obviously the suburbs we predicted,” Cr Hill said.

“We want people just to stay safe … we’ve given all the warnings we can to the community. This is going to be a very, very long couple of days.”

Cr Hill said flows from the dam would peak later this morning.

“Based on current rainfall and rainfall predictions, it will peak at 11:00am today but we won’t see any easing of that peak to well over midnight tonight.”

Rain eases, but more on radar

There was some relief overnight with rainfall in Townsville not as heavy as forecast, but further heavy rainfall is expected later today.

The Bureau of Meteorology recorded between 300mm and 400mm in the Ross River catchment and between 150mm to 200mm around Townsville in the 24 hours to 9:00am this morning.

The bureau also warned of the possibility of water spouts and tornadoes developing along the coast between Ayr and Mackay.

Senior forecaster Jonty Hall said the monsoon trough that’s bringing the rain is expected to move further south.

“That will bring areas like the Central Coast, Mackay, Whitsundays into the equation,” he said.

“If that were to occur that would lead to some easing through the Townsville area which would certainly be good news, but we’ll have to wait to see if that occurs.”

All schools in the Townsville area remain closed today and may also be closed tomorrow.

A decision will be made this morning on possibly reopening the airport.

 

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Son Güncelleme: 17.01.2020 15:46