21 Feb 2015, 2:48 PM UTC
Tropical Cyclone Marcia: Gympie businesses begin to flood with water from Mary River
Gympie in south-east Queensland has been cut off by rising floodwaters following heavy rain from ex-Tropical Cyclone Marcia. Police say the Mary River has risen quicker than expected and some businesses in low-lying areas are being slowly inundated. Marcia was downgraded to a tropical low on Saturday after , but the state's south-east remains on flood watch. The State Emergency Service (SES) has responded to more than 6,000 requests for help in Queensland since Marcia crossed the coast as a category five cyclone on Friday. Low-lying businesses in Gympie were evacuated on Saturday. Authorities said earlier in the day no homes were at risk of flooding. The flood level is expected to peak on Sunday afternoon. Hydrologist at the weather bureau's Flood Warning Centre, Sue Oats, said significant flooding is now predicted after rain from ex-Tropical Cyclone Marcia caused the Mary River to swell. "That, on top of the Friday rainfall, has bumped river levels at Gympie up from what was anticipated to be a moderate flood peak, to now a major flood peak." Floodwaters cut the Bruce Highway to the north and south of the city earlier on Saturday afternoon. There were diversions for small vehicles but not for B-doubles, but the diversions were predicted to be cut too when the Mary River peaks later on Saturday evening. Gympie Mayor Mick Curran said he was expecting the river to peak at 17 metres, but added the situation was under control. "The prediction this morning was 14.6 metres from the [Bureau of Meteorology] - obviously that's increased to 17 [metres]," he said. "What that's done is triggered some extra work for us as such and some evacuations, but at this stage no-one is panicking. "We've got very sound plans in place and we're proceeding along with those plans as we speak." Councillor Curran said Gympie was holding up well. "We've had no major incidents as such - we've had no loss of life and the Gympie community gets on and gets it done, which is how we do things up here," he said. Cyclone clean-up continues in central Queensland In central Queensland, the clean-up from the cyclone continues in Rockhampton and Yeppoon, but . About 550 homes have been damaged, and soldiers are on standby to help with the recovery effort. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited central Queensland to inspect the damage from ex-cyclone Marcia. She met Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow on Saturday afternoon and spoke to emergency service workers at the disaster coordination centre. Ms Palaszczuk promised to send the Army to help communities to rebuild. "What we are seeing here is complete and utter devastation - it has been absolutely horrific what these people have gone through," she said. "If you look at the devastation, people have lost roofs, they've lost possessions, but they haven't lost their hope." South of Rockhampton, authorities evacuated residents from the small town of Jambin due to flooding in the Callide River. The automatic gates at Callide Dam were triggered overnight Friday, releasing water into the river, which has reached nine metres and is continuing to rise. Several properties in the region have been inundated. Sunwater said the dam was not built for flood mitigation and the gates were designed to open when the dam was full. About 50 families have been sheltering at the Jambin State School. Earlier Ms Palaszczuk said 42 people had been airlifted from Jambin to Biloela after flooding affected local properties. Authorities later corrected that figure, saying 24 people had been airlifted, but 17 people remained behind in the Jambin evacuation centre. The flood gates on Callide Dam had closed by 11:00am on Saturday, but it was expected Jambin would remain cut off for several days. The Dawson Highway to the east will be cut off indefinitely after a three-metre section of bridge was washed away. Police will be flown into Jambin to assist people remaining in the town. The closure of the Callide Dam flood gates also mitigated concerns for people in the town of Goovigen, north of Jambin, where no evacuations are now expected. Police are advising residents in the region who remain in their homes to move to higher ground. Moderate flooding in North Burnett towns In the North Burnett region, the towns of Monto and Mundubbera escaped major flooding. North Burnett Deputy Mayor Faye Whelan said there had been minor to moderate flooding, with a few properties impacted. She said the region, which suffered massive flood damage in 2013, was "very relieved". Bundaberg also escaped inundation, with only 30mm of rain recorded over the city and 140mm over catchment areas. Early on Saturday, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) warned a very dangerous severe thunderstorm with destructive winds was affecting the Sunshine Coast. Rain is continuing to fall over a wide area all the way south to the Queensland border. The BoM said a waterspout was observed near Mooloolabah, which moved over land and caused some building damage. However, the overall impact of the system onwas unlikely to be as bad as had been expected. Queensland cities assessing the damage Hundreds of families slept in cyclone shelters on Friday night and started the clean-up effort on Saturday. There were more than 3,000 calls for help in a 24-hour period, mostly in Rockhampton and Yeppoon. Gladstone Mayor Gail Sellers said it appeared on initial indications that their city had suffered much less damage than expected. "Our roads have survived reasonably well. We have the road to the west to Biloela closed. Some areas still have no electricity," she said. "Awoonga Dam has overtopped and the road below that, Pike Crossing. Gladstone's been very lucky I have to say and we hope to be back to normal next week." The Premier asked the Defence Force to assist in cleaning up debris in worst-hit areas, with two Air Force planes to be deployed to help assess the extent of the damage. The AP-3C Orion and maritime patrol aircraft and a KA-350 King Air will arrive in the region today and use high resolution imagery to analyse damage to the area. Ergon Energy will have about 500 staff on the ground in the Capricornia region working to restore power to customers who have been impacted. Marcia, only the sixth recorded category five cyclone Australia has seen, made landfall in the largely uninhabited Shoalwater Bay on Friday morning. It "grazed" the regional town of Yeppoon and maintained a lot of its force to directly hit the city of Rockhampton as a category three. Townships have been extensively damaged, with roofs ripped off homes, power lines down and trees uprooted. Marcia was downgraded to a category one about 8:00pm on Friday and further downgraded to a tropical low about 1:00am on Saturday. Despite packing gusts of over 200kph there has been no loss of life throughout the disaster, but there have been a few near misses. Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland had pulled through relatively well and all effort would be put into the clean-up. "People need to be a little bit patient," she said. "I know they've been through a harrowing ordeal. We're very lucky, we're very fortunate, we've had no reports of serious injuries."