Australia – Residents Airlifted to Safety After Record Floods in Northern Queensland

Residents of several towns in Northern Queensland in Australia have been airlifted to safety after record flooding.

Flooded areas of Burketown, Queensland, Australia, as seen from above. Photo: Queensland Police

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) warned on 08 March that levels of multiple rivers in Northern Queensland were dangerously high.

On 08 March Queensland Fire and Emergency Services delivered relief supplies to isolated communities in Doomadgee where some residents were evacuated. Around the same time, evacuations were reported in Gregory Downs and Burketown.

In a statement of 12 March, BoM said significant major flooding has been observed in the upper parts of the Nicholson and Leichhardt catchment at Riversleigh, Gregory Downs and Doomadgee township.

“At Doomadgee Township a major record river level of 8.54 metres was recorded early 10 March although river levels have since started to fall,” BoM said.

Levels along the Gregory River at Gregory Downs peaked at 14.69 metres on 10 March, where the major flood level is 10 metres.

BoM added that significant flooding is also occurring along the Leichhardt River, which will continue over the next few days. River levels at Floraville peaked at around 11.60 metres late on 11 March, exceeding the 2019 flood level of around 10 metres.

Flooding is particularly severe in the community of Burketown. Burketown police coordinated evacuations on 10 March.

“Police are co-ordinating the evacuation of vulnerable and elderly persons from Burketown to Mount Isa, with officers door knocking all persons in the township. Various helicopters from nearby properties and businesses will be assisting in the evacuations,” Queensland Police said.

The following day Burke Shire Council issued a warning that all remaining residents should leave Burketown immediately, particularly the elderly and those with children.

On 12 March Queensland Police reported “37 houses and 2 water pumping stations have been taken off power due to safety concerns. Burketown sewage and water treatment has been cut at this time. Water reserves and food supplies are good, and resupply continues. Residents are instructed to conserve water usage and monitor advice from Burketown Shire Council. Air assets are stationed nearby and are on standby for emergency rescues or personnel transport.”

BoM said no observations were available for the Albert River at the Burketown Airstrip gauge, but river levels are estimated to be over 7 metres, which is above the major flood level (6.00 metres) and above the 2011 record flood level (6.78 metres). An extended record peak is likely to continue during 12 and into 13 March.

Levels of the Gregory River at Gregory Downs, Queensland, Australia, MArch 2023. Image: BoM
Levels of the Leichhardt River at Floraville, Queensland, Australia, March 2023. Image: BoM

Social Media