Shocking flood damage across Brisbane and surrounding areas will cost billions to repair. With the rain event ongoing, the extent of the damage to lives and property is not yet known.
Wild weather continues to lash South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, with the weather system moving briefly off the coast only to swing back in and hit Sydney for the rest of the week.
Coastal towns are either experiencing floodwaters or have been put on floodwatch as rain refuses to let up. Brisbane, in particular, received 80% of its yearly rainfall in three days, causing major flooding. 30 Brisbane suburbs have been severely inundated.
The local council has been releasing water from its catchment areas that have been allowed to once again overfill in the lead-up to a major rain system, despite previous warnings, investigations and changes to protocol.
“If we don’t get the water levels down and there’s another extreme event, then there will be flooding and I don’t want to see that happening,” said Palaszczuck.
“You only have to look at what is happening from the Mary River system. You have to look at [what] is happening in northern New South Wales, that’s not related to Wivenhoe. So everyone needs to remove Wivenhoe from this equation at the moment and focus on the flooding event that happened because of the phenomenal rainfall.”
The Premier’s position on this is contested, with poor water release management from Wivenhoe becoming the subject of a messy Inquiry over the January 2011 floods which eventually found that the Wivenhoe dam was ‘operated in breach of the flood mitigation manual’ for a period of time.
For now, there is little anyone can do but seek shelter and wait out the water, with the deluge unlikely to subside until mid-next week. Supply shortages, road closures, power-outtages, and general storm damage have left the region cut-off.
Lismore remains the worst affected. The town is known as the most flood-prone in Australia, with major floods over forty-feet (twelve metres) recorded in the 1890s. The area experienced regular heavy floods until flood mitigation work lowered the frequency of minor floods (but this was not sufficient to stop major floods). The February 2022 flood has seen Lismore’s CBD submerged with two-story buildings underwater and residents forced to cut their way out of their roofs.
Insufficient resources and a slow federal response left residents rescuing each other with kayaks and private boats.
“After the 2017 flood, we looked very seriously into every aspect of what it takes to get a meaningful flood mitigation solution for Lismore and surrounding Northern Rivers,” said Richard Treven to 9 News. Treven’s family has lived in the Lismore region for 150 years and seen 85 floods. “I would like to think that this is going to be the catalyst for this community to finally have a meaningful research project done on the issue.”
Three lives have been lost in the Lismore floods, with Country singer radio host Marge Graham among those identified. There are still many people missing as the floodwaters recede. A man also died in the Central Cost region on Friday. Nine have perished in Queensland floodwaters.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned that Queensland is ‘not out of the woods yet’ while New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has declared 17 local government areas to be natural disaster zones. He has approached the Prime Minister, who is in isolation due to a Covid infection, for federal support.
Perrottet has described the last four years as, ‘natural disaster after natural disaster’.
Ballina is currently experiencing a ‘wall of water’ as flooding upstream converges on the area. Evacuation orders have been issued with a King Tide on its way. Ballina is 12 hours downstream from Lismore. Reports of stock dying along the Wilson and Richmond Rivers have also been appearing on Social Media. One person is listed as missing.