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Hobart flooding clean-up continues with the damage bill running into millions

By Tamara Glumac, Saturday May 12, 2018 - 20:59 EST
ABC image
Staff try to sweep floodwaters out of the Old Woolstore Hotel in Hobart’s CBD. - ABC

The clean-up from Hobart's worst storm in decades is underway, with the total damage bill estimated to run into many millions of dollars.

The extreme weather event, combining heavy rains, wild winds and thunderstorms,

The insurance arm of the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania (RACT Insurance) said it had already received a record number of claims, with 500 lodged by early Saturday afternoon, and more expected over the weekend.

The company said in a statement that it expected its claims bill could exceed $2 million.

Just over 1,400 homes were still without power early on Saturday morning, with about 645 in the north and east and the rest in the south.



Fears of a heavy deluge hitting the state's east coast overnight did not eventuate, although the rain continues to fall in the area, with readings of 63 millimetres at Gray, 52 millimetres at Mount Victoria, 41mm at St Helens, and 41mm at Fingal.

Calls for assistance were for mainly wind-related damage to roofs, downed trees, broken windows and associated water damage.

The SES's northern regional manager Mhairie Revie said for the most part, the north and east escaped the worst of the storms overnight.

"St Mary's, St Helen's, and Launceston were probably most affected," she said.

"[There were] losses in convenience to those that have suffered them, but small losses comparatively."

Conditions are easing for the weekend as the system moves across the state's east coast.



The weather bureau said there was no risk of flash flooding, and a number of minor flood warnings around the state were likely to be withdrawn today.

However the bureau will continue monitoring for some flooding, with a focus on the North Esk and South Esk Rivers.

TasNetworks spokesman Dan Sinkovitz said crews would begin work on restoring power on Saturday when it was safe.

"Overnight we had to reduce our response so that we could give crews a rest, so that they could start work again this morning," he said.

"[Last night] we had in the vicinity of 3,500 customers off. Then at about midnight I got my last contact with the field area, and I think they'd managed to reduce that number to around about 1,800.

"And then this morning we're picking up again at around 1,800, and we'll be looking to close-off as many of those jobs and get as many of those customers on as possible today."



TasNetworks was aiming to complete reconnections by the end of the day, but couldn't guarantee that time frame as the causes of all the outages were yet to be confirmed.



Mr Sinkovitz also said there may be outages that have not been reported yet.

"I did notice on Facebook last night there were messages coming through from customers in Sandy Bay that still didn't have power, and their outages weren't listed on our website," he said.

The weather bureau's Glen Perrin said more severe weather was not expected across Tasmania this weekend.

Break O'Day Council Mayor Mick Tucker said the east coast hadn't experienced the same severity of damage as the south had.

"We've still had strong winds [Friday night] and we've had some much-needed rainfall, but we haven't had the severe damages and infrastructure damage," he said.

The Royal Hobart Hospital re-opened six beds which were closed yesterday after some weather damage.

The hospital's emergency department reported it did not treat any casualties of the deluge, flooding or winds.



Boy plucked to safety

Four people were rescued from floodwaters on Friday, including a 15-year-old boy who suffered mild hypothermia and had to be winched to safety by the police rescue helicopter.



The State Emergency Service received about 400 calls for help in less than 24 hours.

The Insurance Council declared the event catastrophic and has already received more than 1,000 claims.

Julia Ridgers, who runs Margate restaurant Brookfield Shed, had to shelter upstairs with her family while chest-deep water flowed through the premises downstairs.

Her father braved the waters to make sure the electricity was turned off before joining the rest of the family upstairs.



Council repair bill

The South Hobart rubbish tip is one of the worst-hit areas, with the Hobart City Council expecting the damage there alone will be several million dollars.

"There's a lot of infrastructure that's been destroyed and it will take anywhere from six, nine, 12 months to restore," Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie said.

"They'll still be operating of course, but it will just be a bit more difficulty to manoeuvre.

"For now we're saying to people the tip will be closed and is going to remain closed until Tuesday at least.

"It's closed in the interest of public safety. You just cannot drive on parts of the road in the tip area, it's just too dangerous."

Alderman Christie said concrete barriers in Hobart's rivulet were critical in limiting damage elsewhere.



"They were designed to stop fast-floating boulders and debris like logs from coming down the rivulet into the city," he said.

"They have worked and actually made the situation a lot safer and virtually saved the city."

All of Hobart's sporting grounds were closed by the city council, cancelling all football games.



Weather records broken

It is only the fifth time since 1893 that Hobart had recorded more than 100mm of rain in a day. Mount Wellington recorded 236 millimetres.



In the 24 hours to 9:00am on Friday, 129 millimetres of rain fell in Hobart, a record for May.

The weather bureau's senior climatologist, Blair Trewin, said it was not an extreme event by mainland standards, but was "very significant" for south-east Tasmania.

"Certainly it is at least a once-in-a-generation, at least if not a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Hobart had other similarly sized rainfall events in:
1909 (127 mm)
June 1954 (147 mm)
September 1957 (156mm — Hobart's wettest day on record)
April 1960 (132mm — water ran knee-high in city streets and the army was called to help)


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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