An elderly man was rescued from an inundated home.
An elderly man was rescued from an inundated home.

Army called in as ‘catastrophic’ floods predicted

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the situation in North Queensland was "unprecedented and uncharted".  

She urged people to listen to local authorities and to not panic.  

"Please do not go sightseeing," she said.  

"My main concern is the safety of the families living in the Townsville region."  

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said there had been 38 rescues in the last few days.  

Teams overnight assisted in removing 80 people, she said.  

"We have been carrying out our damage assessments which have been difficult to finalise," she said.  

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said local messaging in Townsville was critical.  

"If you're told to move to higher ground, or to a place of safety, please do that," he said.  

Mr Gee said there was "more than enough police" to help protect property if people moved from their homes.

EARLIER: OFFICIALS fear predicted totals of up to 2m of rainfall - on top of an already metre-high deluge - will plunge North Queensland into a record-breaking "catastrophic" flood disaster on a 700km-long stretch of coast from Cairns to Mackay.

Disaster-declared Townsville is at the epicentre of the "unprecedented" monsoonal downpour where dozens of homes have been swamped, schools and businesses shut, and thousands of residents in flood-prone suburbs urged to move to high ground due to the risk of severe flooding.

Police and soldiers yesterday went door to door in five suburbs warning a metre-high wall of water may impact homes after a decision was made to further open floodgates at Ross River Dam.

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Suburbs at risk of flooding include Rosslea, Railway Estate, South Townsville, Idalia, Cluden, Hermit Park and Oonoonba.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services last night issued an emergency alert, with possible flooding of homes overnight.

Ross River Dam is 188 per cent full, according to a reading at 1pm yesterday.

It is the highest level in the past 10 years, surpassing the 167 per cent recorded in 2009.

Up to 100 homes downstream from the dam were evacuated yesterday and authorities ordered power cuts to about 400 properties - with more expected - due to safety concerns as floodwaters filled the streets and inundated buildings on top of already elevated flood levels.

Flash flooding alerts sent by text repeatedly flashed as a score of suburbs came under threat and more than 80 homes were evacuated.

"We're no strangers to big wet events in the North,'' Mayor Jenny Hill said.

"(But) we know that we're seeing really a record event.''

 

 

A man drove his car into flood waters at Loam Island, Rasmussen. Picture: Zak Simmonds
A man drove his car into flood waters at Loam Island, Rasmussen. Picture: Zak Simmonds

 

She said a decision to open the floodgates came as the extreme weather posed a significant threat downstream.

"We haven't taken this decision lightly, we're looking into what could happen over the next two to three days, we know that the Ross River has hit a new milestone in terms of outflows into the ocean with a one-in-100-year event," Cr Hill said.

State Disaster Co-ordinator Bob Gee urged hundreds of thousands of people to stay alert because "most people … will never have experienced this (extreme weather) event".

More than 30 swiftwater rescue specialists have been deployed across the Townsville region by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

Torrential rain is also falling in central Queensland, with large areas in the grip of drought receiving big falls, including Mount Isa.

Four people were last night stranded near Middleton in central western Queensland after being trapped by the flooded Diamantina River, with rescue crews unable to reach them.

It's understood the four were uninjured and had enough food and water to stay with their vehicle but would move to higher ground.

Queensland police said it was expected the group would be helped by a local property owner who has a boat Saturday morning.

An extra four swiftwater rescue specialists are being flown from Brisbane to Mount Isa from today. Half a dozen places in the Townsville region have already had more than 1m of rain over seven days. These include upper Bluewater (1230mm), Paluma (1181mm), Upper Black River (1034mm) and Woolshed (1008mm).

Marion Callope, who lives on Windsor St in Hermit Park, was filling sandbags to try and keep her house dry.

"We are just preparing, just to be on the safe side," she said. "Our street is pretty well right, so there's no water up our street today but if the Ross (River) breaks its banks then you never know, so it's better to be safe than sorry."

 

Landslide at Mueller Street, Wulguru. Picture: Shae Beplate
Landslide at Mueller Street, Wulguru. Picture: Shae Beplate

 

Ms Callope, who has lived in Townsville since 2003, said she had never seen such rain.

"They said it's unprecedented and it certainly is," she said. "There's no need to panic until such time as we something drastic happen."

Major flood warnings have been issued for the Murray, Tully, Herbert, Ross, Bohle, Black, Bluewater, Haughton, Flinders and Cloncurry rivers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the silver lining was drought-affected areas seeing some rainfall.

 

The army deploys to Railway Estate to sand bag properties. Picture: Evan Morgan
The army deploys to Railway Estate to sand bag properties. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Vinord Anand said the monsoon trough will be very active and will stay almost stationary over Townsville for at least the next three days, with up to 400mm of rainfall a day in parts.

"This is in record territory." Mr Anand said of great concern were total falls of another 1m to 2m of rain on top of catchments that had been already flooded by more than 1000mm in the past seven days.

"If that does happen, it's catastrophic flooding."

Torrential rain is also falling in central Queensland, with large areas in the grip of drought receiving big falls, including Mount Isa.  

Four people were last night stranded near Middleton in central western Queensland after being trapped by the flooded Diamantina River, with rescue crews unable to reach them.   

It's understood the four were uninjured and had enough food and water to stay with their vehicle but would move to higher ground.  

Queensland police said it was expected the group would be helped by a local property owner who has a boat Saturday morning.  

An extra four swiftwater rescue specialists are being flown from Brisbane to Mount Isa from today. Half a dozen places in the Townsville region have already had more than 1m of rain over seven days.

These include upper Bluewater (1230mm), Paluma (1181mm), Upper Black River (1034mm) and Woolshed (1008mm).  

Marion Callope, who lives on Windsor St in Hermit Park, was filling sandbags to try and keep her house dry.   "We are just preparing, just to be on the safe side," she said.

"Our street is pretty well right, so there's no water up our street today but if the Ross (River) breaks its banks then you never know, so it's better to be safe than sorry."