Australia – Thousands Evacuate as Floods Worsen in Queensland and New South Wales

Flooding in eastern Australia that began last week has worsened after further heavy rain. Authorities now report extensive flooding in areas of Queensland and New South Wales, with thousands of residents evacuated and homes damaged. More fatalities have also been reported, with at least 8 flood-related deaths in Queensland in the last week.

Floods in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, February 2022. Photo: QFES

The recent spate of flooding in Queensland began last week after heavy rainfall from 22 February in Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast regions. The Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said over 300 mm of rain fell in 6 hours near Gympie. Flood warnings have been issued the Mary River. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) issued emergency alerts for flash flooding in Gympie, Noosa and Sunshine Coast local government areas.

Further heavy rain has since fallen, particularly during a severe storm on 27 February. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged south east Queensland residents to stay home during the storm. As much as 117 mm of rain fell in just 1 hour in Kippa-Ring, a suburb in the Moreton Bay Region. Bureau of Meteorology figures show nearby Clontarf recorded 340 mm in 24 hours on 27 February and 330 the following 24 hour period.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported widespread rainfall totals of 300 to 400 mm across south east Queensland on 28 February. The highest total was recorded at Upper Springbrook with 530 mm. The highest in the Brisbane area was Bracken Ridge Reservoir with 444 mm.

Rivers that were already swollen from previous rainfall broke their banks. Flood warnings were issued for the Mary, Noosa, Maroochy, Mooloolah, Pine, Caboolture and Brisbane rivers, among others.

On Saturday 26 February, 700 residents in low-lying areas of Gympie were ordered to evacuate due to flooding from the Mary River. The Mary River at Gympie jumped to 22.96 metres early 27 February. Major flood stage here is 17 metres.

Levels of the Mary River at Gympie, Queensland, Australia, February 2022. Image: BoM

The Brisbane River at St Lucia passed major flood stage (5.5 metres) on 27 February and reached 6.59 metres on 28 February. A house boat was swept away by currents in the Brisbane River collided with a ferry terminal at Kangaroo Point early on 27 February. A pontoon carrying a crane broke loose from its moorings. The Regional Harbour Master has closed the Brisbane river to all vessels.

The Albert and Logan rivers were rising as of 28 February, and a flood emergency was issued for Ormeau. The rivers are expected to peak on 01 March around 50cm above levels seen in the 2017 floods.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said teams received over 9,000 calls for assistance and attended almost 600 rescue incidents. Media reported 19,000 homes in Brisbane and Gympie have been impacted. Over 1,500 people have moved to 36 evacuation shelters.

Transport and Main Roads Queensland said the the Pacific Motorway (M1) is closed at multiple locations on the Gold Coast. Power outages left around 50,000 people without electricity and almost 1,000 schools were closed. Queensland Police have reported at least 8 flood-related deaths in Queensland in the last week, including an SES volunteer who lost her life responding to a call for assistance from a family at Coolana.

New South Wales

Meanwhile flooding has also affected the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales (NSW) where the Tweed, Brunswick, Richmond and Wilsons rivers were all high.

Evacuation orders were issued for Lismore, Casino and Tweed Heads and surrounding areas, among others. Media reported that, as of 28 February, around 15,000 people have evacuated their homes. The NSW government has set up 14 evacuation centres.

One of the hardest hit areas is the town of Lismore where residents have been rescued by helicopter and boats and military teams called in after flooding from the Wilsons River. One person was reported missing in the floods.

The Wilsons River peaked at a record 14.11 metres early on 28 February, beating previous record highs of 1974 (12.15 m) and 1954 (12.27 m).

Levels of the Wilsons River at Lismore, NSW, Australia. Image: BoM

Social Media