Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Queensland floods a ‘one-in-2000-year event’

Death toll rises to six in Australian floods
The Straits Times, 4 May 2015

SYDNEY - Heavy rains that inundated Australia's east coast for the past two weeks have led to six casualties so far, as flood warnings continued yesterday following a severe deluge that cut power to thousands of homes and isolated numerous communities.

Nearly 60 people have been evacuated from apartment blocks threatened by flooding in Sydney last Saturday night as rainstorms continued battering the region.

The states of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) faced a huge clean-up, but were forecast to experience easing conditions yesterday.

"Never before have we seen such a huge volume of rain drop in such a short period of time," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told broadcaster Channel Seven from the state's capital Brisbane.

A six-year-old boy became the sixth storm victim when he was swept away by rough seas at a northern NSW beach last Saturday, police and surf lifesavers said.

The boy was walking along South Ballina beach with his father and older brother when he was pulled into the ocean by stormy waters, according to the surf lifesavers. Police said he was rescued by fishermen and flown to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Another five people, including a five-year-old boy, also lost their lives when two four-wheel-drive vehicles were caught in flash flooding in Caboolture, 44km north of Brisbane, last Friday.

"I'd like to never see these types of incidents again," Queensland police inspector Lee Jeffries said in Caboolture. "This is the tragic outcome where vehicles entered flooded roads."

Regional Mayor Allan Sutherland described the torrential rain as a "one-in-2,000-year event". "To say we got smacked would be an understatement," he told Queensland's Courier Mail.

Caboolture was hit by 277mm of rain in just three hours last Friday, taking total rainfall in the area to 360mm in less than 24 hours.

More than 2,000 calls were made to Queensland's State Emergency Service, mostly relating to flood damage and sandbagging.

In NSW, northern towns also copped a beating, with some areas receiving more than 100mm or 200mm of rain over a two-day period, bureau forecaster Sarah Chadwick said.

Conditions are expected to ease by today, although flood warnings remain for several regions across the two states.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the federal government will assist Queensland following the deadly storms. The intense torrent of rain came just days after NSW was hit by gale-force winds and heavy downpours in a once-in-a-decade storm that left four people dead.

Several houses were swept away and powerlines and trees were brought down, crushing homes and cars, with the destruction causing millions of dollars in damage across Sydney and the surrounding regions.


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