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Flood crisis claims fourth victim

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Toddler dies after tree fall

A three-year-old boy dies after being hit by a falling tree at Kedron Brook, Brisbane Monday while a motorcyclist drowns while trying to cross a flooded bridge at Greenbank.

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A three-year-old boy became the fourth and youngest victim of Queensland's flood crisis, as the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald advanced across the state's border leaving rising rivers in their wake.

An emergency airlift was the only option for 1500 stranded residents in the flood-hit Queensland town of Bundaberg to escape fast-flowing waters believed capable of sweeping entire houses away on Monday night.

Hundreds of residents in the suburb of North Bundaberg were plucked from their roofs by three RACQ Careflight helicopters and two army Black Hawks.

Hair-raising ... wide seas whipped up by the storm at Wategos beach, Byron Bay.

Hair-raising ... wide seas whipped up by the storm at Wategos beach, Byron Bay. Photo: Heath Missen

The force of the flood – running at an estimated 70km/h – meant residents could not be reached by boat.

"The water is everywhere ... it's the worst flood on record," Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said.

There were more than 2000 homes underwater in Bundaberg – by far the worst-affected city – with thousands of residents bunkered down in schools and at the site of the town's new Agro-Trend showgrounds.

As the drama unfolded in the central Queensland sugar town, Brisbane recorded the state's fourth flood-related death – a three-year-old boy who died after he was hit by a falling tree in the city's north.

The toddler was with his family watching floodwaters rise at Gordon Park from the Kedron Brook bikeway when a large gum tree fell on them about 8.30am on Monday.

The little boy died of severe head injuries at the Royal Children's Hospital on Monday night.

His pregnant 34-year-old mother remains in a critical condition in hospital with several broken bones and severe head injuries after becoming trapped beneath the tree.

In other incidents, the body of a motorcyclist was pulled from Oxley Creek, south of Brisbane on Monday. He had been swept off a flooded bridge before horrified onlookers in Greenbank on Sunday night.

In Burnett Heads, near Bundaberg, an 81-year-old man died after falling off his yacht as he tried to secure it against wild weather on Sunday.

And a 27-year-old man, who is believed to have been disabled, was washed away on Sunday when he and his mother and step-father tried to cross a flooded creek near Gympie.

It is understood the man's step-father was rescued shortly after the car was swamped, but his mother was forced to cling to tree for more than four hours before she could be saved.

The skipper of a 12-metre boat off the coast of Rockhampton has been missing since Thursday.

Overnight, Brisbane and Ipswich residents braced for flood peaks expected on Tuesday in areas containing nearly 5000 homes, units and commercial properties.

Premier Campbell Newman has repeatedly assured Brisbane and Ipswich residents the floods will be nothing like those two years ago that swept across Queensland, killing 35 people and leaving a $6 billion reconstruction task.

But, for many, the memories are too raw.

Louise Toohey, whose home was inundated two years ago, was among anxious residents evacuating homes on Monday.

"I feel sick to the core," she told Sky News. "I can't believe it's happening again."

The Bremer River peaked in Ipswich at 14.9 metres about 9.30pm on Monday, almost five metres below the 19.4 metre peak in 2011.

On the 11am high tide, the Brisbane River is forecast to peak at 2.6 metres, nearly half of the 4.46 metre peak in 2011. A second flood peak is likely at noon on Wednesday.

As traumatised residents loaded prized possessions into cars and removal trucks on Monday, winds howled throughout suburban Brisbane, shredding trees from leaves, tearing down branches and uprooting aged gums.

Ferocious seas on the Gold Coast sent waves crashing through the windows of waterfront restaurants, and whipped up foam that blanketed roads.

Regional centres across central and southern Queensland, including Gladstone, Gympie, Maryborough, Warwick, Laidley and Rockhampton, have flooded, with the town of Condamine, west of Chinchilla, facing a 12-metre river peak on Thursday or Friday.

West of Brisbane, in the Lockyer Valley, where flash flooding claimed 19 lives in 2011, more than 100 people stayed overnight in an evacuation centre at the local school.

Hundreds of schools across Queensland will remain closed for the beginning of the new school year, and Brisbane is bracing for commuter chaos on Tuesday with central rail lines damaged.

As ex-cyclone Oswald moved south overnight, about 2000 people were cut off by floodwaters in northern New South Wales, where heavy rain and winds of up to 140km/h battered the region.

The state government on Monday opened up disaster assistance funding to residents of 10 more Queensland regions, including those in Brisbane and Ipswich.

The Insurance Council of Australia said $43 million worth of insurance claims had already been lodged.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the crisis in Queensland was "breaking hearts".

"Across Queensland the wild weather has broken a lot of hearts. It's a very tough period," she said.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the state would rise to the challenge.

"Together we will get through this," he said.

45 comments

  • Once again, the floods hit the same places and homes get flooded - even though the floods are "nothing like those two years ago"

    I guess they should pay a bit more attention as to where they build houses. I am not faulting the people who buy these things - only those who allowed it to come about by ignoring professional engineering advice. This is the same story - in different wrapping - to all these liar loans that will come home to roost in due course. The financial sector is just as rotten as in the USA.

    Commenter
    Alfred
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    January 29, 2013, 6:50AM
    • Just looking for someone to blame in general, are we?

      Commenter
      Padrino
      Location
      Ellivarray
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 8:44AM
    • When looking for land we were shown a block that had flooded in '74 but had been giving building approval because 'that will never happen again'. We declined, young couples and particularly those from interstate may not have even known to ask. It's is up to local government to stop being greedy and allowing building on known floodplains.

      Commenter
      True
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 9:05AM
    • Poor Queensland. Blessed with a wealth of fossil fuel resources, and cursed by the worst impacts of climate change at the same time. I wonder which path they will choose at the next election?

      Commenter
      CeeBee
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 11:31AM
    • CeeBee,

      Why does "climate change" always get the blame? They built their houses on stilts 100 years ago - ever heard of the "Queenslander"?

      The climate data for the past 150 years is quite sufficient to show that they have built a massive number of houses in the wrong places - engineering-wise. Politically, they did just what the people and the banks wanted them to do.

      IMHO, people should not be allowed to buy houses without signing a very clear statement as to the risks they are running - using historical data for their location. They should also be told of the full insurance costs. If they opt out of insurance, they are on their own. Sadly, that would bring down a good number of banks as prices would collapse and construction firms and the politicos don't want that.

      Taxpayers should not be subsidising this nonsense.

      Commenter
      Alfred
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:11PM
    • Alfred, I think you will find that a lot of planning permits allow for the risk of 'once in a hundred years' events. Climate Change gets the blame because these 'extreme' events are now occurring every few years. And remember, this is neither an El Nino or a La Nina year.

      Climate Change will necessitate a reassessment of what to expect from extreme weather.

      Commenter
      CeeBee
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:50PM
  • Isn't it about time the government, state and federal put their resources together and bought up all those properties that continually get flooded, turn the whole area into parkland everyone can use and then when it floods, and it will, the whole cost to insurance companies for those who can even get insurance will be negated not to mention the continual trauma suffered by these poor residents who are living in homes that are basically worthless, uninsurable and they can only sit, pay their mortgage and wait for the next flood. Flood mitigation isn't just about dams, it's about moving people out of an already proven flood area to higher ground to prevent it happening over and over again. Lets control the one thing we can to a large degree, our residents.

    Commenter
    Smithers
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    January 29, 2013, 8:04AM
    • Following that logic, no one would live in the bush either, because that burns down every 5-10 years.

      Commenter
      Padrino
      Location
      Ellivarray
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 8:46AM
    • Yes Padrino, that would be a great second step - at least in bush areas known to burn down on a regular basis. To be flooded/burnt down once is a natural disaster. To have it happen to the same set of houses twice in a row is a failure of planning and policy.

      Commenter
      K
      Location
      Bne
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 9:02AM
    • Good idea, BUT, then the real estate developers would want to rebuild on the park land and take the councils to court if they can't, and then when the new buildings are flooded again would say it's not their fault.

      Commenter
      micko
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 9:15AM

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