Floods recede as states count cost

Written By komlim puldel on Selasa, 29 Januari 2013 | 20.01

About 7500 people have been displaced in Bundaberg as it contemplates a recovery from the flood disaster.

CENTRAL and southern Queensland face a mammoth recovery task as record-breaking flood waters recede.

Thousands of people have been displaced as rivers and creeks, swollen by torrential rain from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, rose up and inundated homes and businesses on Monday and Tuesday.

In the worst-hit city of Bundaberg, 2000 homes and 200 businesses were inundated when the river reached a record height on Tuesday afternoon.

More than 7500 displaced residents are seeking refuge in evacuation centres or with friends and family on higher ground.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman toured Bundaberg on Tuesday and urged Queenslanders to aid disaster victims.

"They all need our support. We've got to reach out and help them now," he said.

Mr Newman also paid tribute to the resilience of residents, who in some cases have weathered four floods in three years.

"It's incredible to see the spirit of Queenslanders out on the streets of their cities and towns as they grapple with what is a big crisis."

The news was better for residents of Brisbane and Ipswich in the southeast, where water levels peaked lower than expected.

Early indications are that water stayed below floorboard level in Brisbane, while about 35 homes in Ipswich had water in their living areas.

A boy has died after a tree fell on him and his mother, bringing the death toll from the flood emergency to four.

It was a world away from the disaster of January 2011.

Then, tens of thousands of homes in the southeast were inundated and Brisbane's damage bill ran into the tens of millions.

In coming days the city's key challenge will be to maintain water supplies after the flooding forced the shutdown of two processing plants.

Residents have been told to limit water use around the home until further notice.

As the flood waters recede, attention will turn to the huge damage bill and recovery task.

The premier says Bundaberg will be the focus and has arranged for 400-500 soldiers to help clean the city up.

Already 9,800 insurance claims have been lodged in Queensland worth a combined $116 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

The damage to infrastructure is still being assessed but it's been estimated the bill will still reach the hundreds of millions, without counting crop and livestock losses.

The Queensland premier is urging people to donate to the government's Queensland Flood Appeal which is being coordinated with Red Cross.

SES sandbagging near Grafton's Clarence River on Tuesday. Picture: Nikki Short

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce are expected to visit flood-affected regions in Queensland in coming days.

In NSW, Grafton dodged a bullet when floods "never seen by white man" peaked just 2cm below the northern NSW town's levee wall.

After 2000 people evacuated their homes and prepared for the worst, the raging Clarence River peaked at 8.08m, its highest mark in recorded history and just short of the level that could have caused widespread devastation.

"It does appear as though the worst of it is over," NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said.

Mr O'Farrell jointly announced with Prime Minister Julia Gillard the declaration of 10 local government disaster areas to unlock federal and state funds for flood-hit families and businesses.

The Insurance Council estimates about 2000 claims worth $10 million have already been lodged in NSW.

Concerns remain for some towns downstream, including Yamba, Ulmarra and Maclean, but Mr O'Farrell said he was delighted the river level had gone down to 7.95m and was still dropping.

"Now we are in recovery mode," said State Emergency Services commissioner Murray Kear, as the low-pressure system responsible for the severe flooding in Queensland and NSW moved off the coast.

NSW escaped the loss of life suffered in Queensland, although 50 people had to be rescued and 3500 called for assistance, mainly around Grafton.

Bronte Beach in Sydney being hammered by the wild weather. Picture: John Grainger

"It is serious. We need people to conserve water."

WHERE TO TURN TO FOR HELP AND INFORMATION

NSW:

Government Flood Information

Ministry for Police and Emergency Services

Rising water in the Clarence river is expected to test levee banks around Grafton

NSW flood warnings

Queensland:

Guide to essential services

QLD flood warnings

Brisbane city council flood maps

The Manly ferries had a hard time seeing the swells in the Sydney Harbour. Picture: John Grainger

Houses on the Clarence river in Grafton this morning. Picture: Nikki Short

Emergency crews in Penkivil St, Bondi, after a five-stoery high tree fell down outside an apartment building. Picture: Spielman Photography

A man and woman make the most of the foam on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: www.brandonrooney.com

A helicopter rescues a family at Fairmead on the Burnett River downstream of Bundaberg. Pic: Paul Beutel

RAW FOOTAGE: Sections of the John Muntz Causeway in Queensland are completely submerged as the flooding continues.


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