Bundaberg residents face anxious wait
In the grip of the worst flooding on record in the central Queensland city of Bundaberg, thousands of residents may be stranded in evacuation centres for days, anxious over the state of their homes.
Hit with the worst of Queensland's flooding, more than 2000 homes and 200 businesses in the sugar town have been inundated, leaving 7500 residents displaced.
Fearing water tearing through the town at 70km/h could rip houses from their stumps, authorities airlifted 1000 stranded residents from homes in Bundaberg North within eight crucial hours on Monday night.
Patients evacuated from Bundaberg Hospital wait to board Hercules running airlifts to Brisbane. Photo: Renae Henry
And a fleet of planes and helicopters, including four Black Hawks, transferred 200 patients, some seriously ill and frail, from Bundaberg Hospital to Brisbane on Tuesday morning.
The swollen Burnett River peaked at 9.53 metres at 7pm on Tuesday, while more than 1000 residents were bunkered down in evacuation centres at the local showgrounds and schools.
The evacuees could be stranded for days to come, as the water swamping the sugar town could takes days to recede. In the 2011 floods, waters in Rockhampton did not completely drain for one week.
Bundaberg devastated by flooding
Ambulances line up at Brisbane Airport to collect patients evacuated from Bundaberg Hospital being airlifted in by army Hercules. Photo: Michelle Smith
Premier Campbell Newman, who visited the flood-stricken town on Tuesday, said the relocation revealed how serious the crisis was.
"Certainly when you're there and you see elderly patients in a hangar ... going through that trauma of that journey down to Brisbane [it] really brings home to you the human face of what is going on in Bundaberg and other centres," he said.
Local State Emergency Service controller Bill Daniels described the atmosphere in Bundaberg as "eerily serene" amid the destruction.
“The sun's shining outside, there's only a few clouds in the sky, if you look down the street from where we are, you'd hardly know we had a flood,” he said.
“But it's a different story when you look at the river.”
Still waiting to assess the damage to their homes, residents are already having to contend with looting and profiteering.
Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart said there had been four incidents in Bundaberg that could result in looting charges.
Moore Park resident Chris Pasky said his community, just outside Bundaberg, was cut off and out of food.
"People were almost coming to blows this morning at the local shop fighting over bread rolls," he said.
"We've got a baby in the house we can't feed. We've just been forgotten."
Smaller outlying towns, like Eidsvold, Gayndah, Mundubbera and Monto, have also been doing it tough as they battle floods and supply problems.
After his tour of Bundaberg, Mr Newman shared positive stories to come from the disaster.
He said Bundaberg SES volunteer Jill Hall, whose home had completely flooded while she helped others in distress, typified the community spirit arising from the tragedy.
Ms Hall managed to find the humour in the ordeal, while touring her submerged street in a flood boat with the Premier.
"I would invite you in for a cup of tea," she said.
"But I can't get in right now."
When asked where she would stay until the waters subsided, Ms Hall replied with a chuckle: "My ex-husband's."
Mr Newman later told reporters: "I take my hat off to her and so many other people around this state."
He went on to urge Queenslanders to aid disaster victims.
"They all need our support. We've got to reach out and help them now," he said.
- with AAP