16 Jan 2011

Record floods hit Victoria as Queensland mops up

5:50 am on 16 January 2011

A record flood peak has hit the town of Rochester in northern Victoria, as other regions in the north and west of the Australian state prepare for widespread flooding.

The Campaspe River reached an historic peak of 9.12m on Saturday and split the town of Rochester in two. All 3,000 residents have been urged to evacuate, the ABC reports.

The town's domestic water supply has run out, numerous people are displaced, and power outages hindered emergency service responses.

Floodwaters were heading downstream to the town of Echuca.

Some communities in northern Victoria are trying to hold back flood waters for the third time in five months, and four rivers in the northwest have broken their banks, flooding hundreds of properties.

'Army' of volunteers

In Queensland, about 7,000 volunteeers turned out on Saturday to help clean up flood-ravaged homes in Brisbane and Ispwich, the ABC reports.

Meanwhile, extra police officers have been deployed to patrol suburbs in Brisbane and Ipswich to stop looting.

More than 85 communities in southeast Queensland have been affected by the flooding with Condamine in Western Downs bracing for its second flood in 10 days.

The Bureau of Meteorology has revised the expected flood peak as high as 15m, the ABC reports.

Search for bodies moves to Brisbane River

The water police in Queensland have been asked to search Brisbane River for people still missing after last week's devastating flash floods in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley.

The death toll stands at 16, but it is expected to nearly double.

The initial figure of 53 still missing was revised down to 28, after residents and the Red Cross spent hours door-knocking and cross-checking the names of people initially reported missing against those who have since been reported safe.

At one stage the figure dropped to 20, but Queensland Police deputy commissioner Ian Stewart said on Saturday it had been increased again to 28.

Those still to be accounted for are all from Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley area, where a wall of water destroyed homes and buildings on Monday.

Grave concerns remain for 12 people, including 11 from two families at Murphys Creek.

Police have warned the bodies of some victims may never be found.

Queensland Police Minister Neil Roberts said one of the people who had died was found 80km from where they were reported missing.

"This just really highlights the complexity, the difficulties and the time it's going to take to complete this search and rescue operation."

Northern Victoria braces for more floods

About 2,000 people in northern parts of Victoria have been moved out of their homes, including all 800 residents of Carisbrook near Maryborough.

Residents of towns along the Wimmera, Loddon, Avoca and Campaspe River systems spent a sleepless night on Friday waiting for river levels to reach their peak.

Charlton is also facing a flood peak on Saturday, and the town is completely cut off by flood waters.

Evacuation warnings were issued for Bridgewater, Carisbrook, Newbridge, Dadswell Bridge, Malmsbury and Durham Ox.

The SES says hundreds of homes have been flooded and flood waters are still rising in some areas.

Horsham in the west of the state was expected to flood on Saturday, while residents along the Maribyrnong River, in Melbourne's north-west, are being warned to prepare for rising flood waters also.

Queensland highway reopens

Critical food supplies are expected to be able to get to flood-hit Queensland towns now that one of the state's major highways has reopened.

Police are allowing trucks to use the Bruce Highway again between Brisbane and Cairns.

Australian Trucking Association chairman David Simon told the ABC that only essential goods such as food and recovery equipment was being sent in by road.

Thousands without electricity

At least 30,000 properties in south-east Queensland have been swamped and more than 43,000 homes and businesses still had no electricity on Friday, and the local power company said some properties may not be reconnected for days, or even weeks.

Meanwhile, one of the main thoroughfares in the Brisbane, Coronation Drive, has been partially reopened but authorities say the flooding there may have caused serious structural damage.

Engineers are concerned the lanes close to the Brisbane River may collapse.

Insurance 'shortcomings'

Thousands of people face the prospect of rebuilding without payouts, the ABC reports.

Many Brisbane residents who thought they had the right type of flood insurance are now being told they do not, while others, including businesses, were not eligible in the first place.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says the scale of the state's flood devastation has highlighted major shortcomings in the disaster insurance system.

Insurance experts expect claims to top $1 billion, the ABC says.

Deluge in Tasmania

The SES says it dealt with more than 100 calls for help after a deluge across northern Tasmania. It says the worst appears to be over but people should remain vigilant.

There has been flooding in the Meander Valley, Northern Midlands and north-west.

A dam near Ulverstone broke its banks and properties had to be sandbagged, the ABC reports.