11 Jan 2011

Monday flood toll now 9 dead, 59 missing

10:16 pm on 11 January 2011

The death toll from flooding in south-east Queensland on Monday has risen to nine after another body was found.

The ABC reports that about 59 people are still missing after flash floods tore through the city of Toowoomba and several smaller townships in the Lockyer Valley. Dozens of people spent the night on their roof.

The ABC reports a full scale search operation has begun and there are fears the death toll could double.

Residents in Lockyer Valley, Forest Hill, Laidley, Esk and Toogoolawah were being told to move to higher ground on Tuesday.

The area was devastated when flash floods that have been likened to a tsunami swept through the region.

"What we have here in Queensland is a very grim and desperate situation," said Premier Anna Bligh.

An ABC reporter describes the damage in Toowoomba as akin to that caused by Cyclone Tracy in Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974.

Ms Bligh says the major centres of concern are Toowoomba, Murphys Creek, Helidon, Grantham, Gatton, Glenore Grove and other places downstream.

The flood threat is expected to extend to the state's capital on Tuesday.

Warnings concerns

There is concern that not enough warning was given to Toowoomba residents about the flash flooding.

Queensland weather forecasters are defending their plans, but Bureau of Meteorology director, Jim Davidson, says computer models did not show that the rain event would be as severe as it was.

Mr Davidson is calling the event a superstorm, which sent a wall of water through Toowoomba caching people off guard.

But he says flash flood warnings were given when it became apparent the rain was severe.

NSW situation worsening

The State Emergency Service in New South Wales says heavy rain in the north of the state is worsening flooding in the area.

About 4500 people are cut off by floodwaters there.

Residents are already cut off at Tabulam, Bonalbo, and Darkwood, and Maclean and Grafton are expecting a similar fate on Wednesday morning, with the Clarence River likely to peak at Grafton at 7 metres.

The ABC reports a further 200mm of rain is expected in the next 36 hours as the risk of major flooding increases on the north coast.