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North Queensland flood: School kids stranded as Ingham water still rising

By Sally Rafferty, Rhea Abraham and staff, Friday March 9, 2018 - 15:29 EDT
ABC licensed image
Students from Townsville's Willows State School remain stranded on a school camp. - ABC licensed
ABC licensed image
The flooded Herbert has cut off the town of Halifax, north-east of Ingham. - ABC licensed

Parents of a group of school students stuck at a camp in far north Queensland say they are worried about how their children will get out.

The group of 10 and 11 year-olds and their teachers from Willows State School in Townsville are stranded on a property at Euramo, south of Tully.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said his department was in "constant contact" with the group of school children, who were safe and well.

Parent Nyssa Christensen said she had not been able to speak to her son.

"They've been there since Monday, couldn't get out on Wednesday when they were supposed to return home. And we're not being allowed to talk to them at all," she said.

"We've been told the kids are safe and dry, they have enough supplies, the SES and QPS are working with our school to make sure our kids are safe and sound but not a lot of information are coming back to us parents.

"The principal has been awesome with communication in messages that don't give us a lot of information, we've been getting text messages, emails … I can't fault them on that but the information that is in that, that's not enough for us parents," she said.

Ms Christensen said she just wanted her son home.

Chief Superintendent Kev Guteridge said the safety of the students was their top priority.

"It is too high of a risk to move the kids away at this point in time — so they'll be staying," he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said flood levels were approaching their peak in the north Queensland town of Ingham, where streets and yards are under water and some business and homes were flooding.

BOM forecaster Sue Oakes said Herbert River is expected to peak at 14.7 metres — very close to the 2009 flood peak, which saw the town isolated for a month.

"Overnight and into Saturday we do expect those river levels to remain high … and remain above the major flood level of 12 metres right through until at least midday Saturday," she said.

The Herbert River catchment has received 300-600mm over the past three days.

The town remains isolated, the Bruce Highway is closed south of Ingham at Mutarnee and to the north at Tully.

Ingham businesswoman Mary Brown said the town was in "major flood mode".

"All roads north, south, east and west are pretty much under flood. Our CBD though is still operating, so our supermarkets are operating, our retailers who are still continuing to operate and our accommodation houses," Ms Brown said.

"It is still rising in the town area.

"I was just downstairs in the main street and there is now water in front of the retail shops and that's only happened in the last hour or so."

Chief Superintendent Guteridge said it would be difficult to tell the damage to infrastructure until water levels recede.

"At this point in time the infrastructure has stood up very, very well — so we are hoping minimal disruption to the community will result from that," he said.

He said Ingham was "surprisingly very well positioned", with local government planning effectively minimising the flood risks.

"A number of houses in those risk areas are high-set homes on stilts so the town itself is well-prepared and well-planned for this," he said.

More than 2,000 people in the nearby coastal areas of Halifax, Lucinda and Macknade on the northern beaches have been among the hardest hit.

Those areas have been cut off by floodwaters and Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Ramon Jayo said they would be isolated for some time.

"At least Saturday before we start seeing some of the roads clearing, but again it depends on what's happening up top," Councillor Jayo said.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Michael O'Neill said crews had been kept busy this morning.

"We've had three swift water rescues, just assisting some elderly people relocate out of their home due to rising water," he said.

"We've also had nine SES tasks in the past 24 hours where crews have been required to lift furniture and sandbag their homes in preparation of the rising water."

Locals at Lottery Creek near Ingham called the SES after spotting an injured crocodile in floodwaters.

Ingham resident Felix Scerri woke at 5:00am to find his Garbett Street backyard under water.

"I had a look out the window at about four o'clock and there was nothing in the yard that I could see," he said.

"I've just woken up in the last few minutes and there is water everywhere I can see.

"Everybody was expecting it but it happened fairly quickly, didn't really give us too much notice — we had a mad scurry to clean things up late yesterday afternoon.

"We're basically stuck here, luckily we have a high spot at the end of our street that everybody in our street moves their cars up there, basically we've stocked up pretty well so we're stuck here for a couple of days."

Abergowrie resident Robert Rae is stuck in Ingham without his diabetes medication and had to call a friend to bring a boat to him, to make a trip to the chemist.

He said the SES would not deliver medication unless the issue was life threatening.

"I thought the SES was there to help people with that … but that's one of things they don't do," he said.

Further north, the Johnstone River at Innisfail is in major flood.


© ABC 2018

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