Pack bags, leave pets: north Qld braces in record flood
Burketown residents have been told to pack a bag and prepare to leave their pets behind in case of an urgent evacuation as the worst floods on record hit the northwest Queensland community.
A fleet of nine helicopters, including local cattle-mustering aircraft, was used to airlift scores of vulnerable people from the town of 168 near the Gulf of Carpentaria on Friday.
The rain has eased but planes are unable to get to Burketown with the local airstrip inundated by the Albert River, which is steadily rising after surpassing the record 6.78m level recorded in 2011.
Burketown Shire mayor Ernie Camp said further evacuations could be triggered and he urged residents to be prepared.
"All residents, regardless of whether you identify as vulnerable or not, are encouraged to make sure you have a small bag/backpack prepared for possible evacuation at short notice, including any medication and important documents," he said in an alert to residents on Friday.
"If you are concerned about leaving your pets behind, please contact council. A reminder that pets are not allowed to be evacuated."
It was hard to predict whether homes and businesses were going to go under because flood modelling was so limited, Mount Isa police superintendent Tom Armitt said.
"We're already at record levels, we need to be safer and surer at this stage," he said.
"We'll be much more comfortable once we have vulnerable people out."
About 25 elderly people were airlifted about 230km east to Normanton and 18 children each accompanied by a parent were flown to Mount Isa, about 440km to the south.
Marc Adamson, who runs a plumbing business in Burketown, said the water was starting to rise more quickly, but he was still upbeat about the situation.
"Everyone's fine mate, there's still food and beer at the pub," he told AAP.
About 100km southwest in the Indigenous community of Doomadgee, 10 elderly people have also been moved from an aged care home to a hospital as a precaution.
The Nicholson River is at record flood levels and stormwater is backing up, although there is no spillover in the town, a QFES spokeswoman said.
Essential supplies were flown into Domadgee from Cairns on Thursday, with further resupply flights planned.
A number of outlying cattle stations in the Nicholson and Gregory river catchment areas have also been evacuated.
The deluge has stranded many people in remote areas, including a group at The Drovers Camp in Camooweal, about 200km west of Mount Isa.
Traffic is moving to the Northern Territory border about 14km west, but the Barkly Highway link to Mount Isa remains cut by floodwaters.
Josie Rowlands from The Drovers Camp said the country was "very green, very wet and very soggy," but the rain was welcome.
"It's going to be good because we're going to be at a point when we have no rain," she told AAP.
Major flood warnings are in place for the lower Flinders, Nicholson, Gregory and Leichhardt rivers, while the Gulf Country and parts of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers are also on flood watch.