A WEEK after some of the hottest temperatures on record, four Queenslanders are dead and two men remain missing as winds and torrential rain lash the east coast and flooding wreaks havoc in parts of northern NSW.
Water floods Eagle Street
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Water floods Eagle Street
RAW VISION: Floodwaters flow into restaurants along the Eagle street pier as amateur vision captures the impact of the rain across Brisbane and Redcliffe.
Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald has brought strong winds and constant rain that has isolated parts of Queensland and the northern rivers area of NSW, with 500 homes in Lismore evacuated on Monday night.
The SES also issued evacuation orders for Ulmarra, Cowper and Brushgrove.
The Pacific and Bruxner highways were expected to close late Monday night and motorists were urged to delay all travel between the Queensland border and NSW.
Other communities at risk include Byron Bay, Ballina, Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
Affected towns west of the Great Dividing Range include Moree and Inverell, and to the south eastern parts of the Hunter Valley, including Newcastle.
The storm front was expected to move south to the Sydney metropolitan area in the early hours of Tuesday, bringing more wild weather.
The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, said the next 24 hours would see flood peaks in the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Brisbane.
‘‘We’re not going to forget people; there will be a very strong recovery effort,’’ he told ABC TV.
Sean Scott, of Ipswich, headed to an evacuation centre after police warned that his home could flood. “I don’t have much, but I made sure I moved my ute somewhere safe. I’ve got no job without my ute,” he said.
Clifford O’Brien, also at the evacuation centre, received word that “my house is going under”.
There is light rain ... but Lismore is a flood town and I don't think anyone is panicking.
“I managed to move my clothes and my daughter’s clothes, some papers and things. But I had to leave the furniture. Had nowhere to put it,” he said.
At Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast, the wind whipped up a carpet of foam along the foreshore.
Mike Brooke, who runs beachside apartments nearby, likened it to “a dirty snow drift”. “[People] are walking through it. It’s a mix of foamy water and sand. If you go into it you come out pretty grubby.”
The weather could interrupt back-to-school plans this week, with classes due to resume on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Department of Education and Communities advised parents to contact their school to find out if it would open as planned.
Grafton has been hit by a major flood and a new warning was issued for Murwillumbah and Chinderah as the Tweed River catchment flooded on Monday.
Queensland was hit the hardest, with Bundaberg suffering its worst flood on record. Helicopters rescued residents trapped on their rooftops and it is believed 1200 homes were damaged by the flood. People living along the Logan and Albert rivers south of Brisbane were warned to prepare for flooding.
Senior Sergeant Grant Marcus, the executive officer of Bundaberg District Disaster Management, said as many as 1000 people in north Bundaberg had been taken to safety by Black Hawk helicopter.
West of Brisbane, in the Lockyer Valley, where floods took 19 lives in 2011, evacuations have been carried out as flood levels exceeded previous levels.
On Sunday night a motorcyclist in Greenbank, south of Brisbane, was washed away as passers-by tried to rescue him. His body was pulled from the Oxley creek, south of Brisbane.
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.
A 27-year-old man was washed away on Sunday when he tried with two others to cross a flooded creek near Gympie. His companions were rescued by an SES team but the man’s body was found in Widgee Creek on Monday morning.
A three-year-old boy became the fourth victim on Monday night. He was hit by a falling gum tree while watching floodwaters in Brisbane’s north and died in hospital.
The skipper of a 12-metre boat off the coast of Rockhampton has been missing since Thursday when he sent a mayday call that his boat was taking on water. A second man on the boat swam to Balaclava Island but police are still searching for the skipper.
On Sunday afternoon NSW police launched a search when a man, described as 50 to 60 years old, did not return to shore from swimming at Norah Head on the central coast.