Here is an afternoon situation report (sitrep) on Australia’s flood disaster as of Sunday, January 16, 2011.
The death toll from the Queensland floods is now 18 dead, with the discovery of a woman’s body in the rubble of a home near Grantham and the body of a middle-aged man found in debris near Lockyer and Gatton Creeks, between Helidon and Withcott.
Queensland Police still hold grave fears for at least 13 other missing people.
Thousands of volunteers have turned up to help with the flood clean up in Brisbane and Ipswich. So many people registered as volunteers that they stopped taking any more when numbers reached 55,000. There have been so many people wanting to help that their cars have presented a traffic and parking problem.
Brisbane City Council says while no more volunteers are needed today, they will be needed in the days and weeks ahead.
Around 12,500 volunteers joined yesterday’s clean-up operation, which was directed by Brisbane Council, but today some were turned away. The council says they will need many more helpers over the weeks and months to come, and has called for owners with small tip trucks to come and help with the big clean-up.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said today she saw “a kind of magic” in the outpouring of love and emotion by people pitching in to help total strangers, and not just for their families, friends and neighbours.
People have been warned again that the water and mud are contaminated and toxic. Five workers are in hospital from serious infections, which could even be life-threatening. Bacteria in the water are so dangerous that a scratch can mean the loss of a limb or even loss of life. Any wounds should be washed and treated immediately, then covered with a waterproof bandage.
Workers should also wear wide-brimmed sun hats, long sleeved shirts and sun-block creams on faces and exposed skin to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancers; and to have sturdy footwear and gloves.
In southern Queensland, the residents of St George are waiting for another flood which has been predicted for next week. The Balonne River should peak at about 13 metres over the next few days, and half a dozen homes could be inundated if the water rises as that high.
In Queensland’s Western Downs, the town of Condamine has been evacuated for the second time. A flood peak of 15 metres has been predicted for late tomorrow night. This is only slightly below the record level of 15.25 metres set earlier this month.
Donations to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Appeal have reached $64 million. Premier Anna Bligh has thanked everyone who donated, and yet more money is Â needed urgently. Rebuilding Queensland will cost manyÂ billionsÂ of dollars.
To make a donation, please visitÂ www.qld.gov.au/floods
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles have both made separate personal donations to the flood appeal. The amounts given were not disclosed, but both Royals praised Australia for their courage and spirit shown by survivors, emergency services and volunteers.
New South Wales
The town of Boggabilla near the Queensland border is returning to normal after its leevee held steadfast against the swollen MacIntyre River.
Flood waters are still high in Maclean, Iluka and Yamba on the Clarence River, which has cut off 6,000 residents. The flood waters are expected to stayÂ high for several more days.
In the far west of NSW, 400 residents of Goodooga and Angledool are likely to be isolated for up to two months, and in Broken Hill there are several hundred farmers and their families stranded.
The biggest problem is trying to resupply isolated farms and communities with food and clean drinking water.
On the Victoria-New South Wales border, the town of EchucaÂ is under threat from unprecedented flood peaks predicted for later today.
A record rainfall, equivalent to what Victorians normally experience over the whole summer, has the state of Victoria in the grip of a major flood emergency. Up to one-quarter of the state has been affected.
Many communities were swamped by swollen rivers yesterday, and 34 Victorian towns are now anxiously awaiting the flood peaks. Charlton and Rochester have cut off, and Victoria’s State Emergency Services has issued evacuation warnings to Boort, Donald, Culgoa and Quambatook in northeastern Victoria.
Thirteen thousand properties across Victoria have been flooded, and 3,000 people have already evacuated their homes.
The clean-up continues across northern Tasmania where flood waters engulfed houses, parks and roads. In the state’s north and northwest, five hundredÂ people had to be evacuated and three bridges have been washed away.
TasRail reports that driving rain and flooded waterways have caused major damage to parts of the TasmanianÂ rail network. A large section of the railway bridge at Railton in the state’s north was washed away, and 20 kilometres of track near the town is badly damaged. Sections of track between Devonport and Deloraine also need repairs, and crews are fixing the damage and working to stabilise a landslip near Ridgley.
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