Townsville Urged To 'Stay Strong' With 'Extraordinary' Conditions Far From Over
Residents in Townsville are being plucked to safety in army trucks, their homes left filled with water, as authorities warn the disaster could roll on for at least another day.
Between 400 and 500 homes have been inundated with floodwaters in the city, where crocodiles and snakes have washed up in street-turned-rivers, forcing about 1100 out of their homes.
The Queensland Premier and City Mayor Jenny Hill said the "extraordinary" conditions were far from over.
"We are not out of the woods yet. Major flooding will continue today and tomorrow," Hill told reporters on Monday afternoon.
"Please stay strong; we will get through. We will ensure that we will protect you as much as we can."
Soldiers, police and SES workers patrolled at-risk parts of the city overnight after unprecedented releases from its swollen dam.
The Bureau of Meteorology recorded between 300 and 400 mm in the Ross River catchment and between 150-350 mm around Townsville in the 24 hours before 9am on Monday.
Queensland's flood crisis. What we know:
- Between 400 and 500 homes inundated in Townsville
- Fears up to 2000 may have been affected by water in some way
- More than 1100 residents evacuated overnight; about 1000 are staying in refuge centres
- Boats, choppers and council trucks being used to get people out of flooded suburbs
- More than 1,000 calls for help in the past 24 hours, most in Townsville
- Monsoon trough producing intense rain is quite stationary but is gradually moving south
- Rain has eased in Townsville but more heavy falls are expected later on Monday; conditions remain unpredictable
- Severe weather warning current from Cardwell south to Mackay and inland to Cloncurry
- Abnormally high tides and monsoonal squalls forecast for the Gulf of Carpentaria coast and the Torres Strait
- Townsville airport will reopen at 2pm; Schools in the region likely to remain closed on Tuesday
QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said there were 850 calls for assistance and 18 swift-water rescues, with authorities left still trying to assess the extent of the damage.
Two police officers who were evacuating people in the suburb of Hermit Park had to be rescued themselves when fast-rising waters left them clinging to trees and washed away their patrol car.
Two other people were plucked to safety from the roof of their car at Hyde Park nearby.
At 11am on Monday, the Ross River Dam was sitting at 228.3 percent capacity, after an order last night to fully open its floodgates. Almost 2000 cubic metres per second is being released from the dam, sending water downstream into Townsville suburbs.
Mayor Hill said the dam has "done it's job" after a record year's worth of rain in seven days.
"The integrity of the dam is fine. There's a lot of rumours and innuendo about there, there's a lot of armchair critics," she said.
"The dam itself is safe. It has been designed to open at a set level ... it has done its job."
Premier Palaszczuk said about 1000 people were sheltering in six evacuation centres, while schools and six TAFE centres remained closed.
The Townsville Airport, which closed on Sunday night, will reopen at 2pm on Monday.
“Passengers are advised to remain in close contact with their individual airlines as to updated flight times and rescheduling," Airport COO Kevin Gill said.
“Passengers are advised to factor in extra time to their journey for processing through the terminal, with staff numbers impacted by the flood. Food options are limited with no cafes or bars open."
'Not Out Of The Woods Yet'
Further heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding is predicted as a moonsoon trough lingers, leaving authorities monitoring rain fall "by the minute".
"This monsoonal trough just doesn't want to seem to move much at all," Palaszczuk said.
"There's going to be heavy rainfall over the next couple of days. There will also be damaging wind gusts and intense rainfall with significant flash flooding. So, once again, our message is if you don't need to be out on the roads, please don't."
Communities from Ingham south to Mackay and west to Mt Isa are under a severe weather warning, with intense rain and significant flash flooding forecast for those from Ingham to Bowen.
According to the weather bureau, the trough should move east towards Townsville on Monday afternoon.
State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee had a simple message to residents.
"Stay out if you’re out. If you need help, ring Triple Zero."
He urged people to steer clear of affected areas, saying floodwaters posed considerable health risks.
Authorities have also warned of the potential for tornado-strength winds, and have observed offshore tornadoes but so far tornadoes have not been seen in coastal communities.