Floods hit Australia, 9 people death and more than 70 people missing and Queensland premier says death toll in Australian floods is expected to double. Nine people are dead and more than 70 are missing after flooding in the Australian state of Queensland devastated several towns and sent torrents raging through many communities. Floodwaters are now heading for Brisbane where the river, which runs through the centre of the city, has broken its banks and police have urged local residents to begin evacuations.
Police described the wall of water that swept through the city of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, as an “inland instant tsumani”. Cars were tossed like toys down the street, trees uprooted and businesses inundated as the floodwaters tore through the centre of town. Four people including two children were killed.
“Houses were ripped from their stumps. This is unbelievable damage,” said the Toowoomba mayor, Peter Taylor.
From Toowoomba, the water flowed down the Lockyer valley where emergency services plucked more than 40 people from houses isolated by the torrent, which hit with little warning. Thunderstorms and driving rain were keeping helicopters from reaching people still in danger this morning.
Dozens of suburbs in Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, are at risk of flooding. The waters are expected to peak on Wednesday and up to 9,000 homes could be affected. A number of businesses in the centre of the city have closed and sent their staff home. Traffic jams across the city have clogged roads as people try to get home or to higher ground.
The prime minister, Julia Gillard, warned that the country should brace itself for the death toll to rise.
“Seventy-two Australians are unaccounted for and that means in Queensland and around the nation, there are people who are frightened, people who are desperately waiting for news of loved ones,” she said.
Reports from the town of Grantham said a wall of water up to seven metres high swept through the area. Television pictures showed houses and buildings destroyed. Authorities said they had grave fears for at least 30 people who had gathered in a primary school. Phone lines were down in the town.
“Our immediate focus is on the search and rescue effort in the Lockyer valley and Toowoomba,” said the defence minister, Stephen Smith.
Two hundred Australian Defence Force personnel are being sent to the area to assist. The Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, warned the death toll was expected to double.
Queensland has been in the grip of floods for several weeks. An area the size of France and Germany combined has been affected. Much of the flooding has happened in the north of the state. Residents in the south-east corner of Queensland near Brisbane had been preparing for waters to reach them but were surprised by the scale of Monday’s events.
“Mother nature has unleashed something shocking out of the Toowoomba region. What we have here in Queensland is a very grim and desperate situation,” Bligh said.
Queensland officials have said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could be as high as A$5bn (£3.2bn).