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North Bundaberg residents return home

Sunday February 3, 2013 - 01:30 EDT
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Police check identification of residents returning to homes within the North Bundaberg exclusion zone. - ABC

There were emotional scenes in North Bundaberg yesterday as hundreds of residents returned briefly to their homes.

The suburb has been hard hit by the flooding with 10 homes destroyed and 30 severely damaged.

Roads, power, water and sewerage lines were washed away during the floods and an exclusion zone is still in place.

Hundreds of residents were allowed back in yesterday morning to inspect their properties and collect valuables, medication and pets.

Some were not able to enter their homes because of flood damage, while those who could were not allowed to clean their property.

Ross Thiele wants to collect his caravan so he has somewhere to live.

"My wife and I have been supporting each other and we're breaking up pretty badly," he said.

"I've had counselling - that doesn't seem to work for me."

Resident Mal Wilson says the council has handled the situation well until now.

"My wife's bawling her eyes out just like everyone else. I've cried. We've got the courage up - we're ready to go to expect the worst and then you are told right at the gate here you can't go," he said.

Another resident, Allan Rae, says he is worried about his pet dogs and cats that were left in the highest part of his house.

"We've got no indication whether they've been picked up or fed," he said.

"We left them enough food but it's been longer than we would have liked and we're not sure how long animals can live without food and water."

It is not known when residents will be allowed to return permanently.

Rocky awaits peak

Meanwhile, the Rockhampton Airport and the Bruce Highway were cut as residents waited for the Fitzroy River to reach a higher-than-expected peak early on Sunday morning.

The river had first been expected to peak at 8.5 metres early on Saturday but was then expected to reach 8.7 metres some time during the night, short of the 2011 flood peak of 9.2 metres.

The Rockhampton Airport has been shut to all but emergency flights and the Bruce Highway south of the city has been closed to light vehicles.

For some residents in Rockhampton's flood-prone suburb of Depot Hill, living in the area is worth putting up with the trouble that the Fitzroy River can bring.

Joe Kennedy has lived there for 23 years and is used to preparing for a flood.

"You've got nothing else you can do but just clean everything and get out if it's going too high, that's all you can do," he said.

Depot Hill's Des Insley is also used to packing up.

"Everyone has got it down pat. Everyone just grabs something and up it goes," he said.

Most homes in the neighbourhood are built on stumps, so they are prepared for floods like this one.

In the CBD, locals like Jack Ruig have been arriving at the banks of the Fitzroy River armed with cameras.

"I reckon it's pretty amazing to see the Fitzroy in flood again for the third or fourth time in the last five years," he said.

Val van de Wetering says one of the city's flood-prone main arterials, Gladstone Road, has changed since the early 70s.

"[There were] lots of businesses in those days. It was a lot of houses along there and really everyone had a boat tied up under their house," she said.

Mayor Margaret Strelow says most locals were prepared ahead of the expected peak.

"We have been asking people if they were impacted by the floods last time, in 2011 to just take a sensible precaution and to get things up," she said.

"Going around the city, most people have done that but there will be some properties for whom that's the difference between water under the floorboards and water above the floorboards."

Ms Strelow says rural areas around Rockhampton will also be affected.

"Every centimetre has an additional impact on some people," she said.

"It also will have an impact on our rural properties - we have large parts of flat land so there'll be some people in those rural areas that might need to move stock and we just ask that they do that safely."

Condamine 'safe'

Further south, floodwaters are also rising in the Condamine River.

Sitting on the bank of the river that bears the same name, the town of Condamine was badly damaged in a record flood two years ago.

The Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown says Saturday's peak was not expected to reach those levels, so homes are safe.

"The peak there was 15.25 metres so there's no expectations of anywhere near that," he said.

He says residents are prepared to be isolated until next Thursday.

To the north-east, the town of Chinchilla is cleaning up after Charley's Creek flooded about 50 homes and businesses.

Councillor Brown says almost 180 volunteers helped out on Friday.

"Did a tremendous job in the town and they're certainly bouncing back in a big way," he said.

A mud army is also being assembled in flood-hit Laidley in the Lockyer Valley.

Damage bill

The damage bill from the flooding is estimated to be at least $2.4 billion and Premier Campbell Newman says he cannot rule out if more public service job cuts will be needed to pay for the damage.

The Queensland Government's already cut 14,000 jobs to make budget savings since it was elected in a landslide last March.

"At the moment we're very much still [trying to] clean it up and help people get back in their homes and restore the immediate vital infrastructure," Mr Newman said.

"I'm not going to rule out anything because I'm not a position to talk about the way the Treasurer will deal with it."

He says flood-stricken businesses need more money from the Government to recover.

He says he has written to the Federal Government, asking it to release grants of up to $25,000 for businesses affected by the floods.

But he told 7.30 Queensland the State Government also wants the rules changed so more money can be given to the worst-affected businesses.

"Frankly that's not enough and I'm signalling that we might have to do better than that," he said.

"Certainly we'll be working up some proposals for the Federal Government to try to help businesses who've been hit twice in only two years."


© ABC 2013

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