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North Bundaberg residents face 'impossible task'

Monday February 4, 2013 - 12:12 EDT

North Bundaberg residents have been allowed back into the suburb to begin the flood clean-up.

On Sunday, the line of cars waiting to cross the Burnett Traffic Bridge to North Bundaberg stretched for kilometres through the city.

Authorities are trying to control access and wanted everyone back out by Sunday evening so they could continue repairs to vital infrastructure.

With no power, water or sewerage, and roads with gapping sink-holes, police did not want people staying overnight in the suburb.

Residents who have returned are struggling to deal with what they have found.

Bundaberg Deputy Mayor David Batt says they now understand the scale of the disaster.

"I think a lot of people coming out now realise what we were trying to explain to them before they got over there of how bad it is," he said.

Overall, Bundaberg's damage bill is estimated to be $200 million.



Resident Ann Rothwell says the devastation is vast.

"I never thought I'd see houses off of stumps. I never thought that. They're going to have to have a lot of help," she said.

James Welch says he is unsure whether his house will ever feel like home again.

"Just trying to get it so the girls can actually walk inside - they can't walk inside yet because they'd just be vomiting," he said.

He says everything in the house is ruined.

Jan Bartlett came to save stranded animals and she was shocked at what she saw.

"The conditions are abysmal - they really are. The very poor people who've come back to this," she said.

Neil Walsh's home was badly damaged and he does not know where to start.

"It's just really, well - it's an impossible task," he said.

Many people say they will not stay in the area.

Queensland's Building Service Authority (BSA) is urging flood-affected residents to clean and repair their homes carefully.

BSA workers have distributed bright yellow bags with a series of handouts to residents of North Bundaberg.

They include checklists for cleaning and guides for rebuilding and restoring after a flood.

There are tips on how to clean spaces, like below floors, and different surfaces - including timber walls and concrete floors.

While owners want to restore their homes quickly, the authority says it is essential houses dry out before repairs begin.



Fitzroy River peaks

Meanwhile, the swollen Fitzroy River in Rockhampton in central Queensland appears to have peaked.

It had been expected to reach 8.7 metres early on Sunday morning but the weather bureau says it reached 8.6 metres on Saturday.

In the low-lying suburb of Depot Hill, many yards have been swamped by floodwaters but residents are relieved it was not worse.

John Crager has lived in Depot Hill for 50 years and says he is used to wading through knee-deep water to leave his house.

"I've been doing it for that many years. You get used to it," he said.

"This is probably my last big one; I might not be around for the next big one."

On the Western Downs, the Condamine River at Condamine peaked at 11.7 metres.

That is about 1.5 metres below the level that poses a flood threat to homes.

Residents are prepared for the town to be isolated until later this week.

Lockyer Valley cleans up

In the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, the Defence Force has built a tent city to store food and provisions for isolated towns and communities in the region.

The mud army turned up in force at Laidley, Glen Ore Grove and Grantham on Saturday and Sunday.

Homes and businesses were ruined when Laidley Creek broke its banks last weekend.

Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones says 40 kilometres of road has been destroyed and helicopters are doing constant food drops.

"The Mt Sylvia Junction View area we still have about 150 people up there that a basically isolated," he said.

"We have set up a council facility at Junction View the Army have come in to assist us now and we are getting supplies out to those people.

"Up until now it has all been by air and we think some people will be isolated for some weeks to come."

Mr Jones says the damage to infrastructure is so bad it will take years to repair.

"The damage to roads is almost indescribable. We have got about 40 kilometres where all the crossings all the bridges and the roads have been destroyed," he said.

"It's a huge job for us to rebuild up there. It could be $100 million or more."

Meanwhile, the Queensland Premier has announced two more disaster recovery coordinators to respond to the state's flood crisis.

Campbell Newman says retired Colonel Don Cousins will be responsible for the north Queensland region while retired Brigadier Bill Mellor will look after the southern region.

He says they will join the Deputy Police Commissioner Brett Pointing in coordinating the response to the flood crisis.

"We will see people who will be there directly focusing on these things and making sure that the needs of those communities are met as we proceed with the recovery effort," he said.

"We're determined to have that attention, that leadership and that access to cabinet in the way that I've described."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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