by Jeni Bone
As the wind dies down but rain continues to lash Queensland, hundreds of emergency service workers are on standby across NSW and floodwaters are still rising as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald tracks south.
Gold Coast beach damage
At this stage, around people are cut off in the state’s drenched north and flood warnings are in place for seven NSW river systems this Australia Day public holiday.
Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan has confirmed that 35 local authorities had been declared eligible for disaster relief payments.
Mr Swan said it was too early to tell whether the damage bill would top the $6 billion mark from the devastating floods of 2011. A Queensland Flood Appeal has been launched with the state government donating $1 million already.
According to the Insurance Council of Australia, insurers have received claims worth $43 million by Monday. The bill is set to reach $50 million by mid-week.
The group declared large parts of Queensland to be ‘catastrophic’, with moderate to severe damage experienced from the NSW border to Cairns.
Telstra services are also down across much of central and northern Queensland causing havoc for emergency services, which have been called out for eight emergency rescues.
The peak level in the Brisbane River is set to reach 2.6 metres, well under the 4-metre level reached during the devastating 2011 floods.
Further north in Bundaberg, the disaster is still far from over. The Burnett River continues to head towards an unprecedented peak. The river is 9.1m and rapidly rising. It’s expected to reach at least 9.5 metres on Monday, and possibly as high as 10 metres, which is well beyond the levels recorded in 2010-11 and in 1942, when the current record was set.
The Army has deployed three Black Hawk helicopters to help with flood evacuations in Bundaberg, where the Burnett River has broken its banks and hundreds of homes and businesses will flood, as people forgo any thought of celebrating the Australia Day long weekend.
The velocity of the water flowing through north Bundaberg has been put at 75 kilometres. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Bundaberg’s north, with authorities saying people could die if they stay. The SES estimates about 70 per cent of north Bundaberg residents have water in their yard or over the floor boards.
The widespread flooding in the sunshine state has now claimed three lives. The body of a man, believed to be a motorcyclist who was swept off the road, has been has been found in floodwaters south of Brisbane.
On the Gold Coast, around 30,000 homes are still without power, and the first day back to classes after summer holidays will be postponed for some schools, as fallen trees, power lines and damage to buildings delay their opening.
In many Surfers Paradise highrises, windows have been blown out, debris has blocked drains and streets are awash, making driving hazardous. The suburbs most impacted by loss of power include Elanora, Palm Beach, Arundel, Helensvale, Parkwood, Southport, Currumbin, Burleigh Waters, Miami, Southport, Reedy Creek, Varsity Lakes, Broadbeach Waters, Bundall and Benowa. The suburbs which have reported the most damage include Labrador and Paradise Point on the northern end along with Springbrook and Tamborine in the Hinterland.
The Gold Coast recorded some of the biggest winds in the south-east with 100km/h gusts causing a 5m swell to smash the Seaway by mid-morning.