January in review - Oswald the big disaster

THERE was no bigger story in January, or the year, than the flood that hit the region on the Australia Day weekend.

The community was in shock as the full extent of the disaster unfolded.

The villain of the event was what started as Tropical Cyclone Oswald up north, which gradually made its way down the coast.

Although it was downgraded to the status of an ex-tropical cyclone, Oswald still had the power to deliver to the Bundaberg region, as well as communities inland, the worst flood recorded.

A combination of weather conditions had ex-tropical cyclone Oswald sit over the catchment that feeds into the Burnett River and dump its load of water into the system.

And residents of Bargara got a foretaste of what was to come on the Saturday as a series of mini tornadoes hit the coastal town, ripping roofs of buildings, toppling trees and blowing in glass doors and windows.

On the Sunday the Burnett River continued its steady rise, and creeks and creeks that fed into the river also started to back up as the water found nowhere to go.

On Monday the NewsMail reported that the fast-rising flood had claimed the life of an 81-year-old man who fell from his boat at Burnett Heads the previous day,

At that stage about 600 homes and 150 businesses were under water as the Burnett headed towards a height of 8.5m - more than 50cm higher than the deluge in 2010/11.

Mayor Mal Forman warned the region was heading into the unknown with a 9m river peak not seen for more than a century.

Premier Campbell Newman came to Bundaberg and pledged state aid for the recovery process - but there was a long way to go before that could begin.

Businesses on the riverbank, such as the Spinnaker Restaurant, the Midtown Marina and the Bundaberg Slipway, were inundated.

On January 29 the river hit a record high of 9.5m, 7500 people had been rendered homeless and 3000 homes had been affected.

Army helicopters were used to lift people off the roofs of flooded homes, and patients at the Bundaberg Hospital were evacuated by air to Brisbane.

By January 31 the level of the water in the Burnett River had started to fall, and the army arrived in full force to help with the flood recovery.

Businesses in Bundaberg started to take stock of the damage, but many, such as Hinkler Central, were so badly damaged they would not reopen for months.

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