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St George flooding leaves no housing damage after Balonne River peaks

By David Chen, Thursday February 27, 2020 - 14:51 EDT

Floodwaters have peaked in the town of St George in Queensland's southern inland, with no damage to any houses, following an emergency declaration for the town.

Nearly 20 homes in low-lying areas were at risk of flooding when the Balonne River reached a peak of around 12.2 metres shortly after midday.

But Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh said the flood went as residents hoped it would.

"It's been very successful from the point of view that there's been minimal damage," he said.

"There is some rubbish and debris on the riverbanks but housing-wise no damage and community-wise, people-wise, no damage."

Councillor Richard Marsh said flows to towns downstream would be monitored.

"Dirranbandi is the next concern. It'll be a few days before it gets to Dirranbandi," he said.

"They're already seeing some of the early water and we will be working on getting them comfortable and making sure that they're safe as well."

Residents urged to minimise health risks

Dr Ross Duncan is the Acting Executive Director of Medical Services at South West Hospital and Health Service.

He urged people cleaning up from the flood to wear sunscreen, insect repellent, boots, gloves and a hat, as well as drink plenty of water.

"You should also consider avoiding floodwater and mud if you have broken skin or wounds, especially if you have diabetes or other chronic diseases,'' Dr Duncan said.

He said there would be an increased risk of infection if people came into direct contact with polluted floodwaters.

"See a health professional or your doctor early for severe wounds, especially if the wound is dirty or becomes red, sore, swollen or painful," he said.

"To minimise health risks, do not swim in floodwater and ensure that you and your children keep away from stormwater drains and creeks."

He said frequent washing of hands was also essential, as floods could increase the risk of diarrhoeal conditions and diseases such as leptospirosis and melioidosis.

Four extra boats and two extra police officers were brought in to St George to patrol for any looting and be ready for rescues.

The township of Bollon, west of St George, has been cut off since Monday after days of heavy rain flowed into the Wallum and Mungallala Creeks.

SES regional operations centre coordinator David Bennet said supplies were being boated into the town's hospital and chemists.

The township's levy, built in 2015, is being tested for the first time, nevertheless, authorities expect locals to be cut off for days.

On baby watch and flood watch

Kalyshia Upton is due to give birth today and was among the residents who were evacuated from their homes.

She said she was overwhelmed when a dozen local men came to help her move her belongings from her riverside house.

"My plan this week was sleep, sit on the couch, read a book, watch TV, all the things that I won't be able to do once baby comes," Ms Upton said.

"[Instead] it's been throwing everything into the car, getting everything packed up, putting everything as high as I can, [it's] just chaos really.

"The baby's room had just been set up and was perfect and ready to go. Not anymore.

"Pulling apart bub's room — spending so much time and months getting it perfect, the love you put into it — that's when the tears came."

Flood brings out rubberneckers and midges

A temporary levy has been constructed to connect the two permanent sections of a levy built after the record 2012 floods.

The slowly-rising river is the main tourist attraction in town this week and has become a meeting place.

Local school kids, Emma Blanch, Will McKay and Fred Eley said they cannot remember seeing it so high.

"A few weeks ago we could walk across it," Emma said.

"We'll be able to go skiing again soon," Fred said.

The floodwaters have also brought out the flies and sandflies which have descended on the town.

Annie Stewart said her $5 fly net was the best money she had ever spent.

"They're everywhere and they'll get worse, the midges are here already and you get bites all over you," she said.

"The fleas and the bugs are the worst thing, but seeing the river up is the best thing."

Cotton Australian chairman and St George farmer Hamish McIntyre said the flood was a huge relief for irrigated farmers.

"It's a wonderful turnaround from where we were a month ago," he said.

"The whole outlook for our regional communities has changed."

Mr McIntyre said he had not had a decent cotton crop since 2015 but the surplus water meant the family would finally plant again in the coming spring.

Flood gates open

More than 150,000 megalitres of water were flowing through the local weir yesterday, with all 13 gates open at E.J. Beardmore Dam.

Around 200,000 megalitres are expected to be released today.

and Ergon Energy is on standby to cut power to homes.

"Just for public safety, obviously electricity and water doesn't mix," area manager John Fry said.

Crews have already made 13 disconnections, mainly for council assets.

Mr Fry said further disconnections were possible if the river reached its expected peak.

"We'll only disconnect people as we need to and we'll just continue to monitor. It's dependent on the height of the river," he said.


© ABC 2020

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