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Townsville floodwaters are easing but now the mould and mildew are setting in

By David Chen and Damien Larkins, Monday February 25, 2019 - 09:32 EDT
ABC image
Mould can grow on all types of clothing if they aren't kept clean. - ABC

After rain, mould can pop up almost anywhere and it's getting worse by the day in Townsville, preventing the opening of schools in the wake of the flood disaster.

While the after record rain and floods, many are stuck trying to clean the fungi that is spreading across ceilings, walls, books, clothes and shoes.

It is thriving in the schools, with about 30 closed in the region from flooding, according to Tony Cook, the director-general of Queensland's Department of Education.

"Mould is our biggest issue," Mr Cook said.

"Over the next two days we will have teams and teams of people working in our schools working on the mould.

"Our aim is to progressively open our remaining schools over the next week or so.

"We are positive and ambitious about that."

Homes thick with mould

The smell isn't pleasant, but mould can also be hazardous.

It has taken over both storeys of Lisa McMahon's Balgal Beach home, and little can be done to fix the problem until the roof cavity dries.

"The water started coming down through the fans, through the light fittings and smoke alarms," she said.

"Because we lost power we didn't have any air movement, so the mould started to grow.

"It's that mould that you can taste, it gets into everything, it's disgusting.

"All the linen and pillows, cushions, bean bags and teddies … the couches, all of the kids' beds, teddies.

"Literally the whole house … even all the woodwork.

"It's pretty devastating."

Mouldy smell becoming offensive

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) officers doorknocking the region have reported that mould is becoming worse by the day.

Mick Burley of the QFES said the area was already beginning to smell as the tropical sun hit water-logged homes.

"The mould growth will be significant and it'll start to increase as it all dries out," Mr Burley said.

Townsville Public Health Unit director Steven Donohue said for most healthy people it was just a nuisance.

But for some it can be dangerous.

"People who have a specific allergy, people who have lung diseases including asthma may react," he said.

"If they are on chemotherapy or they've got diabetes or kidney disease, some of them are at higher risk of getting an opportunistic infection."

Tips for cleaning

The basic message is that mould is relatively easy to clean up.

It thrives on darkness and water and therefore drying things out and sunlight are ways to keep it under control.

Dr Donohue recommended wearing rubber gloves and a mask, and using diluted vinegar on a rag or paper towel.


© ABC 2019

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