Almost 100 people rescued from rooftops, cars

ALMOST 100 people - many stranded on the top of houses, cars and verandas - have been rescued by emergency workers after being trapped by floodwaters in cyclone-battered central Queensland.

The deluge that hit the northern coastline with category four Cyclone Debbie is now wreaking havoc inland and also in the south of the "sunshine state".

Overnight and morning flooding has been at its worst in and around low-lying Mackay where the Pioneer River broke its banks, overflowing local dams to exacerbate floodwaters, especially in the Eton and Homebush areas.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said 38 people had been rescued in the Mackay region overnight while about 50 more needed evacuating up until 9am on Thursday.

By 10am only four were left waiting for a helicopter at Hannans Rd, Eton.

"We did have people up on the top level of their houses, reports of people on the roofs of their houses and roofs of their cars," said Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll.

"So it was an extremely difficult period of time, from about 9pm to 2-3am this morning ... but we believe everyone in that area is safe.

"We haven't got reports of missing people at the moment, so we are quite confident that everyone is safe at this stage and accounted for."

The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed there was major flood warnings for a number of central Queensland towns, but admitted the Pioneer River in Mackay was "an easing situation" as the weather improves.

"That is not to say it's completely safe though," forecaster James Taylor told the ABC.

Between 400-800mm of rain fell in Mackay in the past three days, forcing residents downstream of the Kinchant and Middle Creek Dams to move to higher ground.

Mayor Greg Williamson says the city is also running out of safe drinking water with just 24 hours of supply left.

The federal MP for the Mackay region, George Christensen, has called for defence to prioritise cleaning up tourist areas.

"Getting that tourism hub back to a pristine condition probably is the best thing we can do for the local economy." Hundreds of tourists and residents stranded on Hamilton and Daydream islands will be flown to safety after winds on the islands reached terrifying speeds of more than 260km/h at the height of the cyclone.

Residents in Lotus Creek, Mount Bridget along Connors River are also at risk of flooding.

Isaac River, which flows through Moranbah is also a major risk, as is the Mackenzie River which moves through Royles and Duaringa, while the Don River in Bowen has also burst it's banks.

Wading through calf-high water, Ashley Bourke carries the things she can't bear to lose and packs them into waiting cars.

Her North Eton home - just out of Mackay - flooded last night when a huge storm system, following behind Tropical Cyclone Debbie, pushed water across the road and through her front door.

She'd evacuated before Debbie came through, preferring safety to staying at home - but returned to find worse was to come.

Kinchant Dam, about 8km from her home, was past its capacity and authorities had been releasing some of its water.

Ashley was inside when her sister Kristy was approached by a neighbour.


Power workers look at damaged poles in the flooding at North Eton near Mackay. Picture: Annette Dew
"We weren't here when the police came," Kristy said.

"But old mate across the road came and told us the dam was at 120 per cent and they were letting (the water) down so that South East Queensland doesn't get flooded."

Ashley had spent the morning packing her possessions into cars before the water inside her home rose even further.

Mayor Greg Williamson told media about 100 residents below Kinchant Dam had been given evacuation orders.

Ashley said people's safety was the most important thing.

"There are so many people worse off than me," she said.

"Those people in Bowen and Airlie have lost everything. There is nothing more important than being safe. Possessions can be replaced."

For 77 years, Alan Creber has lived in his high-set home at Eton North. He's seen cyclones and storms and floods a plenty.

So when Tropical Cyclone Debbie came through, he moved the cars to a neighbour's, fired up the generator and put his lawn mowers up on tables under the house.

But it was the storm that ripped through last night that surprised him - bringing in water close to a metre deep and turning his yard into a swimming pool.

"Yesterday was worse than the cyclone," his wife Beverley, who has lived in their home for 54 years, said.

"When we got out of bed yesterday morning, the water hadn't even started to come up. The cyclone was nothing. There was a palm tree blown over, now it never got blown over in the cyclone.

"That was after the cyclone went."

Alan said he started putting his lawn mowers and compressors onto tables when the rain started but soon found the tables weren't high enough.

Asked whether he had been concerned by the lake that formed around his house, he said: "Nope, been through it all previously. This time it was worse. But that water will be gone this afternoon."

EARLIER

EMERGENCY services workers are attempting to rescue about 50 stranded people, many off the roofs of houses and cars, after being trapped by floodwaters in and around cyclone-battered Mackay.

The majority, about 40, are awaiting rescue in the Homebush area, just southwest of Mackay, with swift water crews working to move them from the West Leagues Club.

It's already been a stressful morning for frantic authorities with 38 swift water rescues completed overnight, including a heavily pregnant woman who was evacuated from a house in Homebush.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll says she was moved to the Eton rural fire shed before being taken by helicopter to West Leagues Club.

Ms Carroll says rescue efforts are also underway to reach 11 people near Eton, in the Pioneer Valley, further west of low-lying Mackay.

"We have some 12 incidents currently taking place that we have got crews on the ground," the QFES commissioner said on Wednesday morning.

She asked stranded people to be patient.

"We are definitely getting to you. We know where you are. We have got the helicopters working in that area, as well as swift water rescue and SES. Please be patient with us, we will get to you as soon as humanly possible." Ms Carroll said some had to scramble onto the roofs of homes and cars to escape floodwaters.

"From about 9pm onwards, there was flash flooding particularly in that area, so we did have people up on the top level of their houses, reports of people on the roofs of their houses and roofs of their cars," she said.

"So it was an extremely difficult period of time, from about 9 o'clock, to 2am, 3am, this morning ... but we believe everyone in that area is safe. "We haven't got reports of missing people at the moment, so we are quite confident that everyone is safe at this stage and accounted for."

Haydn McNichol spent the night on his boat with his wife and three dogs when two metres of water went through his home.

 

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said it was hard to know how much worse the weather crisis was going to get, with the southeast corner now bracing for flash flooding from the former category four cyclone.

"The problem is we don't know," he said. "We saw what happened in the Mackay area last night.

"We had hoped that we had seen the last of Tropical Cyclone Debbie."

Earlier this morning, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said significant rainfall in Mackay has led to a sudden increase in calls for service. A number of rescues have been undertaken & still being undertaken.
 

58,000 homes are without power in North Queensland, an Ergon Energy spokesman has confirmed.

Mr Stewart says authorities do not have a clear understanding of what is happening in parts of rain-affected Qld. Concerns for rural areas West of Mackay.

Helicopters have been able to get into the area today. Going back to check residents - we know people need rescuing.

There have been number of rescues at North Eton - conditions were horrendous last night.
 

Cyclone Debbie is ravaging the Mackay region
Cyclone Debbie is ravaging the Mackay region Brett Agnew

There were people on roof tops & people trapped in cars in areas west of Mackay.

Around 20 to 30 people had to be rescued from floodwaters west of Mackay overnight, according to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

It is understood emergency services are particularly concerned about the rural areas west of Mackay in the Pioneer Valley and in the Sarina area.

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said this morning that about 20 to 30 people had to be rescued from floodwaters in Eaton, west of Mackay, with some plucked from roofs and tops of cars.

The situation will only become clear this morning she said.
 

Contributed

It comes as Bundaberg residents were told to stock up on supplies as floods hit the region and several motorists were rescued from stranded cars. The southeast has also been told to brace for heavy rainfalls and possible flash flooding.

Of most concern around Mackay are the Eton and Mirani areas, which have started flooding.

"Some people can't get out of the Kinchant Dam area," Cr Williamson said.

People in low-lying areas of Sarina have been told to "move now".

Residents living downstream from the Kinchant Dam were this afternoon being warned to leave their homes and move to higher ground. SunWater said the dam was at 119 per cent capacity at 3.15pm - and rising.

Residents downstream of Middle Creek Dam have also been advised to evacuate.

"We had evacuations at Cremorne and have now been advised by Kinchant Dam and Middle Creek Dam that those dams are spilling now, to the point where evacuation orders have got to be issued for downstream members," Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said this afternoon.
 

A shed in Paget was thrashed by the strong winds.
A shed in Paget was thrashed by the strong winds. Kylie Goldsmith

He said the Pioneer River had peaked this morning at about 7.2m. A major flood warning is in place for the river. The Forgan Bridge and Peak Downs Highway at Kirkup Bridge have been closed.

Kahn O'Brien from North Mackay drove across Pioneer Bridge before it was closed to see Pioneer River break its banks.

"It is pretty wild, I have never seen (the Pioneer River) this high before," he said.

"I'll probably never see it this high again."

Cr Williamson said the region was very much still feeling the effects of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

"We've still got wind gusts of over 60km/h. Today there has been torrential rain and strong wind gusts," he said.

"Sixty-eight per cent of our population is without power ... Some of them have been without power for 24 hours."

Mackay has copped some of the most rain in the warning areas today, with 250mm falling in five hours just west of the city.

Kate Barnes stands next to the watermark left in her Walkerston home.
Kate Barnes stands next to the watermark left in her Walkerston home. Emily Smith

BoM issued an alert stating the Pioneer Basin had received 1000mm of rain in the past 48 hours, an incredible amount considering the catchment usually has 1500-2000mm in a year.

About 18,000 Mackay residents were earlier waiting for electricity to be restored following damaging winds and flooding rains passing through the coastal town.

Some Mackay suburbs had their power cut on Monday evening as a precautionary measure while others lost electricity supply as the low pressure system dumped around 100mm/h as it headed southwest on Tuesday.

"We are getting crews into Mackay as soon as possible, but it will depend on what level of access we get as to how fast we can get people back online," An Energex spokeswoman said.

"We will prioritise with hospital and essential services being connected first in the next 24 hours."
 

A Mackay region shed that's been flattened by the wind.
A Mackay region shed that's been flattened by the wind. Riley Moran

A severe thunderstorm warning for damaging winds and heavy rainfall was issued at 5.16pm for Central Coast and Whitsundays, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Capricornia, Wide Bay and Burnett, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, Southeast Coast and parts of the Central West and Maranoa and Warrego forecast districts.

"Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie will continue to generate areas of very heavy rain over the Capricornia, Central Coast and Whitsundays and Central Highlands and Coalfields districts today," it said.

"Currently the heaviest rainfall is occurring over the areas between inland from Mackay. A separate severe thunderstorm warning is current for heavy rainfall and damaging wind gusts for areas of thunderstorms stretching from Townsville through Mackay to Emerald.

"Widespread daily rainfall totals of 150 to 250mm are expected, with significantly higher totals possible locally.

"This rainfall will likely be very intense at times, leading to a risk of localised flash flooding. Locations that may be affected include Mackay, Sarina, Carmila, Yeppoon, Moranbah, Clermont, Emerald, Springsure and Rolleston."

 

Football and soccer field inundated in south-east Queensland
Football and soccer field inundated in south-east Queensland Megan Birot

Flood warnings in place include a major warning for the Connors and Isaac rivers and moderate flood warning for Theresa Creek, major flood warning for the Pioneer River, moderate flood warning for the Don River and a flood warning for the Proserpine River, a moderate flood warning for the Kolan River and Baffle Creek, a flood warning for the Boyne and Calliope rivers, and a moderate flood warning for the lower Burdekin River.

A severe weather warning for damaging winds and heavy rainfall was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology this morning to the central coast and Whitsundays, central highlands and coalfields, Capricornia, Wide Bay and Burnett, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, southeast coast and parts of the central west and Maranoa and Warrego forecast districts.

The Clark Range in the Pioneer River catchment area had recorded over 340mm of rainfall in the past 24 hours.

"The heaviest rain is in Mackay. We are seeing rainfall in the vicinity of 90 to 100mm per hour and it's been occurring over a couple of hours … and we are likely to see flash flooding," BoM forecaster Brett Harrison said

News Corp Australia


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