The Queensland Floods death toll has reached 10 as Brisbane and its surrounding cities have become deluged by what has been described as an inland tsunami.
The floods in South East Queensland are predicted to be worse than the catastrophic deluge in 1974, with flood levels in the Brisbane River expected to go beyond the 5.45 metres that nearly drowned the city then.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh described the floods as “one of our toughest ever tests”.
“This weather might be breaking our hearts but it will not break our will,” she said. “Now is not a time for panic, now is the time for us to stick together.”
Several young children are among the dead and Bligh has said whole families are among those still missing.
Brisbane, Australia’s third most-populous city is a flooded ghost town. Barges are adrift on the Brisbane river and its boardwalks lie deep underwater.
The neighbouring city of Ipswich has also become deluged. An officer from the country’s State Emergency Service recounted watching a mother being saved only to see her child swept away.
Millions of litres of water, almost like a living thing with free will, is likely to continue to overwhelm Brisbane for some days yet.
On Tuesday, the torrents sparked the mass evacuation of the entire 300-strong population of Forest Hill, where waters swelled to dangerous levels.
The waters are now making their way into the swollen Wivenhoe Dam, where managers must release them, despite downstream effects, due to enormous, ongoing inflows.
A staggering 75 per cent of the vast state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone.
Torrential rain hampered recovery efforts in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, where there were stunning scenes yesterday as SUVs were picked up like children’s wooden toys and dumped in haphazard piles downstream.
Bligh said almost 40,000 properties were expected to experience flooding in Brisbane in coming days.
“We would expect to see 9,000 properties affected significantly by this water level and more than 30,000 other properties having some impact,” she said.
Ipswich is also braced for a record peak of up to 22 metres of water, possibly up to 2 metres above the 1974 level. That will flood up to 3,000 properties. It will be the largest flood since 1893, when flood levels reached 24.5 metres.
Bligh said the situations developing in both cities were “frightening” but emergency services were ready to protect Queenslanders.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said that Australia stood ready to support Queensland as it dealt with the fallout.
“I’m sure that many Queenslanders and Australians right around the nation would have been hoping that the worst of this was behind us, and that we were shortly to move from the immediate crisis into a recovery phase,” Gillard said.
“Tragically that hasn’t occurred. Yesterday we saw some simply shocking events in Toowoomba and other communities in the Lockyer Valley – literally walls of water smashing into cars and into buildings.
“We’ve seen very dramatic images of cars tossed around, of people on roofs of houses, and on the roofs of cars, and people literally hanging on for dear life to trees and to sign posts – I’m sure those images have shocked Australians.
“I would like to say to the people of Queensland that I understand the past few days have been very harrowing indeed, and that there are still more dark days ahead.
“To the people of Queensland can I also say: Australians are thinking of you and anything that the Australian nation can do to assist the people of Queensland in these difficult days will be done.”