World — 20 January 2011

Here is a morning situation report (sitrep) updating you with the latest news on Australia’s flood disaster as of Thursday, January 20, 2011.

Australian Floods
The Australian flood disaster will be the most expensive in Australia’s history. Estimates of the cost to rebuild range from as low as “a few hundred” million dollars to as high as $30 billion to repair all the damage across all the affected states.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested a flood levy on all Australians to pay for the cost of rebuilding the nation’s damaged infrastructure, especially in the states of Queensland and Victoria, where the worst damage has occurred.

The clean-up operation in Queensland was hampered by severe storms over the last two nights. There was heavy rain, and lightning cut electricity to 30,000 homes and properties. Many had only just got their power back again after recent flooding.

The (Australian) ABC reports that many schools in Brisbane have been damaged by the floods. So when the Christmas holiday ends on Monday and the children return to school, many kids will have to attend other schools while theirs are being cleaned and repaired.

In Bundaberg, a man has been rescued from a mud trap which held him like quicksand. The man was on the bank of the Burnett River when he slipped down an embankment and sank up to his neck in the mud. His wife ran for help and two passers-by scrambled down to help. They held the man’s head above water until Queensland Fire and Rescue could extracate him onto a basket stretcher, and haul him back up the embankment.

Police in Brisbane have arrested a 23 year old man after a woman had her car taken at knife point in Morningside on January 18. Some hours later, the man allegedly robbed a petrol station and escaped with a sum of money. The defendant will appear in court charged with 10 offences including armed robbery.

In Rockhampton, police have closed several streets after flash flooding overnight.

Two hundred police officers, half of them brought in from other Australian states, are protecting Brisbane and Ipswich from looters. Anyone convicted of looting will face up to ten years in jail.

There is to be an official enquiry into the flood disaster to examine how well prepared Queensland was for the floods, and how well its emergency services handled the emergency. The enquiry will take a year.

The death toll from the Queensland floods is still 20, with 12 missing. Meanwhile the Premier’s flood relief appeal has already collected more than $200 million to help rebuild the state.

New South Wales
A three-year-old boy has been found dead in flood waters in Marthaguy on the NSW central coast. He was found 500m from his home after an extensive search. Police are still investigating.

Victoria is experiencing the worst floods seen since 1933, after “walls of water”, Kilometres wide flowed across the northeast of the state.

Sixty-two towns are affected, and some levees have broken. Thousands of people have been moved to emergency shelters.

In Dimboola, the State Emergency Service (SES) issued an alert just before dawn urging residents to evacuate their homes before floodwaters are due to hit the town later today. The weir that normally controls the water is damaged, and at least 29 homes are at risk.

Yesterday, police and SES volunteers rushed to the Wimmera River in Dimboola after a group of teenage boys were seen swimming in the flood waters. The boys, one aged 16 and three aged 17, were removed from the water, which was fast-flowing, with strong currents and underwater debris.

The police have urged the public not to be stupid. They warn that people or boats can be fined $191 for not complying with Marine regulations.

At Kerang, the levee is still holding but police have warned people to stay clear of the levee because some water is still seeping through it, and sightseers are a hinderance.

Police have warned residents to beware of scammers trying to cash in on the flood crisis. People should be check the IDs of charity collectors and be wary of workmen who arrive and offer to do repairs. Often they ask for cash up front to buy materials, then disappear with the money.

The heavy rain in northeast Tasmania has finished, flood waters are receding, and life is returning almost to normal.


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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