Once-in-a-century floods have turned streets into rivers and forced thousands to abandon their homes in Queensland, with authorities warning of tornadoes and more rain over the next few days.
Thousands of residents in the city of Townsville in Queensland are without power and cut off by flooded roads, with many forced to seek safety on the roofs of their flooded homes.
The monsoon trough that began dumping flooding rains in far north Queensland a week ago continues to threaten properties in flood-bound Townsville.
A day of intense rainfall on Sunday forced the local council to open the floodgates to Townsville’s swollen Ross River Dam after 8pm, releasing almost 2000 cubic metres of water per second downriver.
Townsville residents were on Monday also being warned to stay out of the flood waters due to recent crocodile and snake sightings around the town, including one that washed up in a driveway in the residential neighbourhood of Mundingburra on Sunday night.
Up to 500 homes in the city have already been inundated and with days of intense rain ahead, there are fears that between 10,000 and 20,000 properties could be at risk.
Residents in many low-lying suburbs were warned to seek higher ground as floodwaters were expected to rise through the night and into the morning.
Power to thousands of homes in the north Queensland city has been cut and the main airport closed.
Hundreds of people who’ve been forced from their homes by waist- and chest-deep water are taking refuge at evacuation centres, and with family and friends on higher ground.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the state’s flood disaster is far from over, and weather forecasters have said between half a metre and a metre of extra rain could fall on the east coast in coming days.
A severe weather warning covers communities from Mackay, on the coast, north to Ingham, and right out west, almost as far as the Northern Territory border.
Major road routes are cut, including the Bruce Highway north and south of Townsville, forcing the state government to shore up food supplies in isolated communities, including Richmond.
Eleven of the state’s local government areas have been affected, with five eligible for disaster assistance.
“We have had so many of these natural disasters over a short period of time,” the premier told reporters on Sunday, referring to earlier floods and cyclones over the summer months.
“The flooding event is going to cause a lot of distress to a lot of people.”
In Townsville, authorities have warned people riding out the disaster that even when the rain stops, it could take days for the water to subside so they can go home.
“We are literally in unchartered territory for this city,” Mayor Jenny Hill said.
“The real test will be once we hit recovery.”
Supermarket shelves stripped bare
Aisles of empty shelves now occupy supermarkets after the rising floodwaters saw food supply trucks denied access.
There are growing fears that some residents have been stockpiling food, leaving others with little to choose from.
With power cut to thousands of homes, perishable food items have also started to sour.
Schools remain closed
All schools in Townsville and surrounding areas will remain closed on Monday, with Education Minister Grace Grace saying it would be too greater risk for the children.
“I strongly urge parents to continue checking the Department’s School Closures website for the most up-to-date information about the status of schools in affected areas over the coming days as the situation is subject to change,” she said.
“The safety of all of our staff, our students and their families will always be our highest priority.”
All 42 state schools, 21 Catholic and Independent Schools and 119 Early Childhood Education and Care Services will remain closed.
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