Mother Nature has unleashed a “shocking” disaster on communities west of Brisbane, with four people confirmed dead and grave fears held for others, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says.
Ms Bligh said flash floods that hit Toowoomba and the nearby Lockyer Valley on Monday afternoon were “a freak of nature” and had taken the lives of two adults and two children.
The disaster is still playing out, with at least one person missing at Grantham, and five at Withcott, in the Lockyer Valley. The six include at least three young pedestrians, and others in two vehicles.
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Ms Bligh said the situation in Grantham was unclear but many were stranded there, and on roofs in Withcott.
“We have unconfirmed reports out of Grantham that have us holding very grave fears for the safety of a number of people in the Grantham township,” Ms Bligh told reporters on Monday night.
“We are unable to reach some 30 people in the town of Grantham. They have all gathered together in a primary school at Grantham. They are completely isolated by fast moving flood waters.”
She said emergency workers would do their best to reach those in Grantham and Withcott during the night.
“Mother Nature has unleashed something shocking out of the Toowoomba region and we’ve seen it move very quickly down the range.
“This is without a doubt our darkest hour of the last fortnight.”
The premier said the victims included a woman and a male child, found dead in the Toowoomba CBD. No other people were reported missing in the CBD at this stage, she said.
At Murphys Creek in the Lockyer Valley, a man and a male child had also died, after being washed away in, or from a house, Ms Bligh said.
She said the floods had hit communities at “lightning speed” and the situation for affected communities was “desperate and grim”.
As an example, the premier said the river at Gatton, east of Toowoomba, had risen 9 metres in the course of the afternoon.
She said there’d been 43 rescues to date by Emergency Management Queensland helicopters, but heavy fog and weather had now grounded those aircraft.
One, equipped with night vision technology, was on standby in case there was any break in the weather overnight.
Ms Bligh said a major incident room had been set up in the Toowoomba CBD to deal with the crisis.
“All possible resources, including ADF resources, will be activated at first light tomorrow to begin further search and rescue,” she said.
“We will be getting out at first light to continue the search for those who have been notified as missing and continue the rescue efforts for those that have been stranded on roof tops.”
“The event that started in Toowoomba can only be described as a complete freak of nature, an extraordinary deluge that almost came out of nowhere,” she said.
“We’ll be working with the weather bureau to understand this event more carefully tomorrow.”
She said the gravity of the situation could not be overstated.
“What we have here in Queensland tonight is a very grim and desperate situation. There are many Queenslanders tonight in critical and dire circumstances,” Ms Bligh said.
“Many people are facing a very terrifying night.
“I think we can all say that our thoughts are with them over the coming hours and we pray and hope that they will be safe when first light comes tomorrow morning.”
Ms Bligh said a number of roads were cut, including the Warrego and Bruce highways and there would be “significant supply issues into central and northern Queensland”.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said emergency crews were trying to reach every vehicle that was swept away.
“Every vehicle that was swept away, no matter what the circumstances or where that vehicle may be, we’re endeavouring to get into those vehicles and see if there is anyone trapped,” he said.
“We are doing all we can tonight, but it is just impossible to complete this tonight.”
Mr Atkinson said floods levels seemed to be dropping as quickly as they came up.
The deluge is now headed towards Lowood, east of Toowoomba and about 65km from Brisbane, and could affect expected flood levels in Brisbane and at Ipswich.
“We are tracking the movement. At the moment it’s heading towards … Lowood and will ultimately join up with the Brisbane River we think in somewhere between roughly six or 12 hours time,” Mr Atkinson said.
“Then about 12 hours after we think it will probably reach Moggill (between Ipswich and Brisbane), and 12 hours after that Brisbane.
“The Bureau of Meteorology is working with us to do modelling for what that will likely mean, we hope to have those results in the next three or four hours.”
Mr Atkinson said the six listed as missing was conservative.
“They are minimum numbers, absolute minimum numbers,” he said.
Ms Bligh added: “We certainly have unconfirmed reports of further missing people in the Grantham area.”
Helicopters from NSW have been called to Brisbane and will take off at first light.
Ms Bligh said communications into Grantham were virtually non-existent.
“We’re doing our best to get people in there tonight and hope to be able to reach those people and get a better assessment of what condition they’re in, whether there are injuries or any other safety concerns.
Ms Bligh said the flood crisis was also worsening in other parts of the state.
She said flood waters were peaking in Dalby, west of Brisbane, at levels higher than the last flood 10 days ago.
She said 165 people had taken refuge in two evacuation centres in the town.
At Chinchilla, west of Dalby, flood waters are rising rapidly and are expected to reach 7 metres by early Tuesday, and continue rising throughout the day, Ms Bligh said.
She said evacuations were continuing there.
She said the township of Condamine was also facing a second major flood in less than a fortnight, with the Condamine River again heading towards the 15-metre mark.
“The river at Condamine is also rising very quickly and is now about 9 metres but models are showing it could, by the end of this week, get to the 14 or 15 metre mark, which is the point which triggered evacuation of the whole town some eight or nine days ago,” Ms Bligh said.
“Across Dalby, Chinchilla and Condamine and we also have reports tonight that we are monitoring very closely and Meandarra, we are seeing new peaks and new flood records being set overnight and evacuations occurring.”
Source: www. Smh.com.au