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Roads remain cut, homes evacuated as floodwaters rise in southern Queensland

By Lexy Hamilton-Smith, Thursday October 19, 2017 - 16:30 EDT
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The deluge has broken a 64-year record in Bundaberg, BOM says. - ABC

Torrential rain has severely damaged local roads and wiped out crops in Queensland's North Burnett region, as community leaders call for immediate action by the State Government.

After five days of heavy rain, dams are overflowing and at least 70 roads remain cut across Gladstone, Wide Bay and Burnett and the Sunshine Coast areas, as residents brace for more.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the deluge had broken a 64-year record in Bundaberg, with the city receiving seven times its October rain average well before the month's end.

A BOM spokesman said Bundaberg had received 519mm of rain already this month, well in excess of the previous record of 280mm set in 1953.

Flash flooding continues to force evacuations at Lowmead, north of Bundaberg, while local mayors called for urgent federal and state government assistance.

At least 14 schools and childcare centres have been shut down due to flooding as well, with parents and carers urged to check schools' websites for details.

About a dozen homes in Lowmead and Baffle Creek, north of Bundaberg, were evacuated on Wednesday, with more likely to be affected today as river levels rise.



Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said those towns, as well as Agnes Water and Boyne Valley, remained isolated by flooded roads.

Resident Kerry Derix, who lives at Moore Park Beach near Bundaberg, has been flooded in for the past five days.

She works in administration at a local agriculture business and said she had cabin fever being stuck at home.

"I only just managed to get in this morning and one of major roads is still flooded so I had to come in the back way once that was clear," she said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said assessment teams were heading into the damaged regions later this afternoon to look at the impact on farms and crop losses.

"Three additional swift-water rescue teams are on standby at Gympie, Maryborough and Bundaberg," she said.

"The SES had about 80 requests for assistance over the last 24 hours, with the majority of requests from the Bundaberg region."



Disaster coordination centre activated

Many Mr Burnett said.

North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers said farmers had copped a hiding and she had already asked the state and federal governments for help.



"This week was our harvest week and they've lost everything again — we're looking at around a $4 million loss so far," she said.

"It is just a kick in the teeth again and again and again so therefore it's not just financial, it's going to be social."

Cr Chambers said if farmers did not do well in the North Burnett, the region itself suffered.

"It has a flow-on effect through our small businesses and through our day-to-day life," she said.

Cr Chambers said the region had previously missed out on disaster relief funding but this time she was not taking no for an answer.



Heavy rain moves further north

Meanwhile, the wild weather that has been battering Queensland's central coast has moved north to Cairns, plunging thousands of homes into darkness.

Widespread outages have been reported from Innisfail to Port Douglas after the region was hit by heavy rainfall and lightning.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clark said 148 millimetres fell at Cairns Airport, but the highest rainfall in the state overnight was 256mm in Bilyana, between Tully and Ingham.



"Tomorrow is looking like the best day this week with sunny patches developing," he said.

Brisbane is drying out with only a few showers falling on Thursday.

Water Supply Minister Mark Bailey said the rain had provided a welcome boost to dams in south-east Queensland.

He said the combined storage levels of the 12 key dams that make up nearly 90 per cent of the region's drinking water supply had increased by 4 per cent to 75 per cent.

Mr Bailey said an extra three and a half months' supply, or 86,000 million litres, had been added to the region's water storage.

Meanwhile the slow-moving upper low that had caused so much havoc has now worked its way along the coast and is expected to weaken on Friday.

A second rain band is on its way and is expected to hit regions in the west that missed out this week, including Birdsville, Charleville and Roma.

The BOM said the upper trough should start impacting the western region by the weekend bringing rainfall of about 50mm.

Fruit and vegetable shortage expected

Fruit and vegetable supplies across Queensland .

Fields of zucchinis, tomatoes, chillies, capsicums and other crops have been flooded and grower David De Paoli said the impact was widespread.

"No matter whether you're a sweet potato grower, or someone who grows [crops] on trees — anything — all the vegetables are going to be a big chuck, because this is a time the north is nearly finished," he said.

"Bundaberg will start and then we go down south, so it's our window of supply coming up."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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