World — 21 January 2011

Here is this afternoon’s situation report (sitrep) updating you with the latest news on Australia’s flood disaster as of Friday, January 21, 2011.

Australian Floods
The Australian floods are the most expensive natural disaster in Australia’s recorded history. The cost to rebuild damaged roads, buildings and infrastructure across all the affected states may cost as much $30 billion.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested a flood levy on all Australians to pay for the cost of rebuilding, and said the federal government will have to cut some spending too. She says the government should be able to get back into surplus in two years time.

The death toll from the Queensland floods this month is 20 dead, with 9 missing. But Premier Anna Bligh said today that 33 people have died in the state’s floods if December’s flood deaths are included as well.

Anna Bligh was stressing the enormity of Queensland’s flood disaster as the state moves formally into recovery mode. She said they will have a long reconstruction period ahead to fix things.

A total of 97 towns have been flooded or isolated in the past eight weeks and 90,000 kilometres of local roads have been damaged — not including damage to the state’s highways.

She said 5,400 houses were destroyed and another 21,000 homes and buildings have flood damage. Six thousand people were forced to flee their homes, and there may be more wet weather to come.

The Queensland minister for tourism, Peter Lawlor, said people thinking of visiting Australia can help by booking a holiday in Queensland. He said most tourism attractions were not affected by the floods. These include the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast and much of Brisbane itself where it is business as usual.

In Brisbane, many schools were damaged by the floods and will not be able to open when holidays end on Monday. Many students will have to attend other schools while repairs are done.

Australian insurance companies have defied a request by the federal government to develop a standard flood clause, and broaden access to flood policies to all households. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports the insurers have decided to stick to their guns and take a hard line on the stricken policyholders.

Tens of thousands of flood victims in Brisbane and Ipswich will now be without cover and face financial ruin because the damage was from flooding. However, policyholders in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley are expected to be covered by their policies because the damage there was caused by storms or the run-off from storm water.

An official enquiry will examine how well prepared Queensland was for the flood disaster, and how well its emergency services responded to the emergency.

The Qld. Premier’s flood relief appeal has already collected more than $200 million, and Anna Bligh said her priority will be “working on a strategy to make sure Queensland is better protected” in future floods.

Victoria is experiencing the worst floods seen since 1933, and about one-quarter of the state has been flooded.

Victoria Police reported via Twitter earlier today that water was flowing over the Koondrook – Kerang Road, east of Sleepy Lane into Fosters Swamp. They have warned people to keep well clear of the area.

Western Highway at Lochiel is open to a single lane of traffic and VicRoads staff are in attendance.

The surface of the Edenhope-Kaniva road has deteriorated significantly and police have asked motorists not to use the road at this time.

Hundreds of people spent the night sleeping in emergency shelters overnight. Some towns in flooded areas will face up to a week of isolation.

Floodwaters were expected to peak in Jeparit and Beulah this morning and the SES says the waters could stay high until tomorrow. The Wimmera River in Victoria’s west has peaked but if the levees fail at Jeparit, the floodwaters could affect 19 properties.

Police have warned the public to beware of scammers trying to cash in on the flood crisis. They should be check the IDs of charity collectors and be wary of workmen who arrive and offer to do repairs. Some bogus tradesmen have asked for cash up front, then disappear with the money.


About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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