Flash Floods Swamp Queensland, Australian Defence Force Called In
The Australian military has been deployed to the far north of Queensland to assist communities affected by record-breaking floods. The region reels from over two metres of rainfall in less than a week. Major infrastructure is submerged, and thousands of residents are left without power, food, and drinking water.
The region’s major airport also succumbed to the floodwaters on Monday.
Mayors in the affected areas called for military aid for major roads, and railways. Cairns, a prominent tourist centre and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef are declared a state of emergency. About 150,000 residents are instructed to use water only for emergencies due to a damaged treatment plant.
Approximately 13,000 households across the state are under power outages, with warnings that restoration may take days. Queensland Premier Steven Miles cautioned residents about crocodiles swimming through local streets in flood-affected areas.
The helicopters were unable to reach the area occupied by Wujal Wujal, an Indigenous community. It left 280 residents in need of evacuation. Nine individuals, including a child, spent the night on the roof of the local health clinic to escape rising floodwaters. A second evacuation mission, supported by the Australian Defence Force, is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Queensland’s health officer Dr John Gerrard warns of potential health risks in the aftermath of the floods. Contaminated floodwaters could lead to bacterial diseases, including leptospirosis, with symptoms ranging from fever and severe headaches to vomiting and red eyes. Dr. Gerrard advises those involved in the cleanup to take precautions, including wearing water-resistant footwear and covering cuts and wounds with water-resistant dressings.
Queensland’s police commissioner Katarina Carroll reported no deaths or serious injuries attributed to the floods. Nevertheless, she strongly advises against driving on flooded roads.
The local weather service cancelled severe weather warnings on Monday afternoon though highlighted a “significant risk of shower and storm activity” in the region. December daily rainfall records have been a record number in the far north. Cairns experienced its most significant rainfall since 1964 and Cooktown endured the heaviest falls since 1907. The Daintree River recorded a record flood peak of about 15 meters, the highest since 1977.
Emergency services struggle with over 40 requests for help each hour in the 24 hours leading up to the warning being lifted.
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