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Brisbane flood peak passes, inquiry calls start

  • 14-01-11

 

BRISBANE Lord Mayor Campbell Newman wants a judicial-style inquiry into southeast Queensland's flood disaster as the confirmed death toll rose to 15.
A total of 33,701 properties in the capital were engulfed by the raging waters.
A visibly shaken Anna Bligh said Brisbane was a "war zone" that would take years to rebuild. More than 70,000 homes were without power last night, the CBD was a ghost town, and the Premier warned that many homes were damaged beyond repair.
While the Brisbane River stopped 1m short of the 1974 flood peak of 5.45m, the impact was still devastating, with homes submerged to the roofline in dress-circle Graceville and Chelmer in the city's southwest, and at Yeronga and Fairfield on the southside.
A man, 24, drowned while checking his father's flooded property at suburban Durack, in Brisbane's outer west. The body of the 15th confirmed flooding victim, also male, was recovered from swollen Myall Creek in the Darling Downs town of Dalby, 216km west of Brisbane.
With 61 people listing as missing, and grave fears held for 12 of them, Ms Bligh reaffirmed yesterday that the death toll would continue to rise. The search for victims of Monday's devastating flash flood through the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, continued yesterday, with the army joining police and locals. One body was discovered in a field outside the town of Grantham, bringing the death toll in the valley alone to 12.
Last night, floodwaters were threateneing to overwhelm the border town of Goondiwindi, with many of its population of 6000 being evacuated.
Mr Newman said the loss of life demanded an "open and transparent inquiry" along the lines of the royal commission into the 2009 Victorian bushfire disaster.
"Many people have died and it is appropriate that this be done," Mr Newman said in an interview before a helicopter tour of Brisbane's submerged city and suburbs. "I certainly think there needs to be a public inquiry into how the state and local governments, across Queensland, can better protect their communities from the risks of flooding that we will have in future with extreme weather events.
"I would be more than happy to front up and put my views on the table about these matters and I welcome such an inquiry.
"Everyone has to front up, accept what has happened" and be accountable," he said.
"It should be a state-run inquiry and we need to be sure that it looks at everything right across Queensland and how these floods have been handled."
Ms Bligh's office declined to comment last night, except to say the Premier had committed to a "formal evaluation" of the flooding once the crisis phase had passed.
"We want any lessons from this event to inform our response in the future," a spokeswoman said.
Ms Bligh was reduced to tears yesterday as the scale of the destruction emerged in Brisbane and Ipswich, to the west, where 3000 homes were inundated. Mr Newman said 15,270 properties - homes and businesses - were submerged, and 18,431 had been partially flooded.
The priority was to clear arterial roads of silt and debris and open them to traffic in a clean-up that would take at least two years. Riverfront infrastructure including Citycat ferry terminals - worth $4m each - and a $16m floating walkway had been wrecked by the flooding.
As Brisbane counted the cost, yet another Queensland town, the border community of Goondiwindi, was being menaced by rising floodwaters. The Macintyre River was set to hit a record peak above 10.85m last night and overwhelm levee banks protecting the population of 6000.
The Condamine River is heading towards its peak this weekend - the second major flood for the town of Condamine, where the population of 140 has already been evacuated.
In Bundaberg, the Burnett River was expected to peak last night for a second round of flooding. And police have advised residents from Roma in the south of the state to Gladstone on the central coast against panic buying as supplies have started to dwindle.
Paradoxically, Lockyer Valley communities near Brisbane hit by Monday's deadly flash floods are facing water shortages, and military tankers were yesterday drafted into round-the-clock convoys to supply them. Authorities appealed to the 10,000 residents to conserve water.
The floodwaters are also causing problems over the border in NSW, where emergency crews were last night rushing to evacuate the 850 homes in Boggabilla amid fears of flash flooding. More than 7000 people remain isolated in NSW, and thousands of hectares of valuable crops are submerged.
Flooding has also hit the north and west of Victoria and central and northern Tasmania. The Tasmanian town of St Helens was the worst-hit, with 14 houses suffering water damage. Wet weather is forecast to continue in both states.
Managers of the brimming Wivenhoe Dam, which has a dual function of principal reservoir and flood shield for Brisbane, last night began the delicate job of draining its near-full flood control compartment.
The vast dam is currently at 190 per cent capacity - taking into account its flood mitigation capacity - and over the next week this will be brought down to 100 per cent, requiring the controlled release of 1000 million megalitres into Brisbane River.
Brisbane Water Grid manager Barry Dennien said this would not cause further flooding.
Senior engineering and hydrological sources, not authorised to comment on the record, told The Australian that investigations need to be conducted into the operations of Wivenhoe Dam, which had been forced to release massive volumes of water to reduce the risk of a catastrophic collapse.
They said there needed to be a thorough questioning of whether the decision to store as much water as possible leading into the wet season, and the subsequent sudden release of water, had contributed to flooding in Brisbane, and whether flooding could instead have been minimised.
An inquiry should also examine local government policies that had permitted the building of thousands of properties in low-lying and flood-prone areas. "There's obviously been policies between 1974 and 2004 that have contributed to the problems in this flood," Mr Newman said. "These policies were deficient and more should have been done in terms of flood preparedness."

BRISBANE Lord Mayor Campbell Newman wants a judicial-style inquiry into southeast Queensland's flood disaster as the confirmed death toll rose to 15.

A total of 33,701 properties in the capital were engulfed by the raging waters.|

A visibly shaken Anna Bligh said Brisbane was a "war zone" that would take years to rebuild. More than 70,000 homes were without power last night, the CBD was a ghost town, and the Premier warned that many homes were damaged beyond repair.

While the Brisbane River stopped 1m short of the 1974 flood peak of 5.45m, the impact was still devastating, with homes submerged to the roofline in dress-circle Graceville and Chelmer in the city's southwest, and at Yeronga and Fairfield on the southside.

A man, 24, drowned while checking his father's flooded property at suburban Durack, in Brisbane's outer west. The body of the 15th confirmed flooding victim, also male, was recovered from swollen Myall Creek in the Darling Downs town of Dalby, 216km west of Brisbane.
With 61 people listing as missing, and grave fears held for 12 of them, Ms Bligh reaffirmed yesterday that the death toll would continue to rise. The search for victims of Monday's devastating flash flood through the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, continued yesterday, with the army joining police and locals. One body was discovered in a field outside the town of Grantham, bringing the death toll in the valley alone to 12.

Last night, floodwaters were threateneing to overwhelm the border town of Goondiwindi, with many of its population of 6000 being evacuated.Mr Newman said the loss of life demanded an "open and transparent inquiry" along the lines of the royal commission into the 2009 Victorian bushfire disaster.

"Many people have died and it is appropriate that this be done," Mr Newman said in an interview before a helicopter tour of Brisbane's submerged city and suburbs. "I certainly think there needs to be a public inquiry into how the state and local governments, across Queensland, can better protect their communities from the risks of flooding that we will have in future with extreme weather events.
"I would be more than happy to front up and put my views on the table about these matters and I welcome such an inquiry."Everyone has to front up, accept what has happened" and be accountable," he said.

"It should be a state-run inquiry and we need to be sure that it looks at everything right across Queensland and how these floods have been handled."

Ms Bligh's office declined to comment last night, except to say the Premier had committed to a "formal evaluation" of the flooding once the crisis phase had passed.

"We want any lessons from this event to inform our response in the future," a spokeswoman said.

Ms Bligh was reduced to tears yesterday as the scale of the destruction emerged in Brisbane and Ipswich, to the west, where 3000 homes were inundated. Mr Newman said 15,270 properties - homes and businesses - were submerged, and 18,431 had been partially flooded.
The priority was to clear arterial roads of silt and debris and open them to traffic in a clean-up that would take at least two years. Riverfront infrastructure including Citycat ferry terminals - worth $4m each - and a $16m floating walkway had been wrecked by the flooding.

As Brisbane counted the cost, yet another Queensland town, the border community of Goondiwindi, was being menaced by rising floodwaters. The Macintyre River was set to hit a record peak above 10.85m last night and overwhelm levee banks protecting the population of 6000.

The Condamine River is heading towards its peak this weekend - the second major flood for the town of Condamine, where the population of 140 has already been evacuated.

In Bundaberg, the Burnett River was expected to peak last night for a second round of flooding. And police have advised residents from
Roma in the south of the state to Gladstone on the central coast against panic buying as supplies have started to dwindle.
Paradoxically, Lockyer Valley communities near Brisbane hit by Monday's deadly flash floods are facing water shortages, and military tankers were yesterday drafted into round-the-clock convoys to supply them. Authorities appealed to the 10,000 residents to conserve water.

The floodwaters are also causing problems over the border in NSW, where emergency crews were last night rushing to evacuate the 850 homes in Boggabilla amid fears of flash flooding. More than 7000 people remain isolated in NSW, and thousands of hectares of valuable crops are submerged.Flooding has also hit the north and west of Victoria and central and northern Tasmania. The Tasmanian town of St Helens was the worst-hit, with 14 houses suffering water damage. Wet weather is forecast to continue in both states.

Managers of the brimming Wivenhoe Dam, which has a dual function of principal reservoir and flood shield for Brisbane, last night began the delicate job of draining its near-full flood control compartment.

The vast dam is currently at 190 per cent capacity - taking into account its flood mitigation capacity - and over the next week this will be brought down to 100 per cent, requiring the controlled release of 1000 million megalitres into Brisbane River.
Brisbane Water Grid manager Barry Dennien said this would not cause further flooding.

Senior engineering and hydrological sources, not authorised to comment on the record, told The Australian that investigations need to be conducted into the operations of Wivenhoe Dam, which had been forced to release massive volumes of water to reduce the risk of a catastrophic collapse.

They said there needed to be a thorough questioning of whether the decision to store as much water as possible leading into the wet season, and the subsequent sudden release of water, had contributed to flooding in Brisbane, and whether flooding could instead have been minimised.

An inquiry should also examine local government policies that had permitted the building of thousands of properties in low-lying and flood-prone areas. "There's obviously been policies between 1974 and 2004 that have contributed to the problems in this flood," Mr Newman said. "These policies were deficient and more should have been done in terms of flood preparedness."

Source: The Australian - Hedley Thomas and Jamie Walker 


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