Rescues and dam releases as deluge hits
A mud slide at Rockhampton threatens homes. Photo: Seven News
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As Brisbane braces for ex-tropical cyclone Oswald to hit southeast Queensland on Friday night, it has left a trail of destruction down the coast. Hitting Ingham in north Queensland on Thursday it then passed over Rockhampton and Gladstone. There were dramatic swift water rescues, sewage spilled into some streets and two fishermen are still missing.
A teen is rescued in Rockhampton. Photo: ABC
Continue reading below for coverage of Friday's events.
UPDATED 7.30pm AEST: The Bruce Hwy is closd immediately south of Rockhampton at the Yeppen Roundabout and the intersection of Capricorn Highway. Flood waters are rising and it is unlikely to re-open until tomorrow.
4.18pm AEST: Sewage is bubbling up into the streets of Gladstone thanks to heavy rain causing sewers to overflow.
Bureau of Meteorology rain forecast for the weekend. Photo: www.bom.gov.au
However, Gladstone mayor Gail Sellers said there were no health concerns because the sewage was diluted.
Road access has been cut to Gladstone in all directions, however Ms Sellers said the water should recede soon.
Meanwhile, the clean up has begun in Rockhampton where some houses fell victim to a landslide.
North Queensland flooding
A teen is plucked from floodwaters in Rockhampton. Photo: Channel Seven
4.01pm AEST: At least eight people have been rescued from floodwaters in central Queensland.
A helicopter crew pulled the group from the water at Wycarbah, southwest of Rockhampton.
Police are unsure if they were were in a mini-bus or multiple vehicles when they were swept into the water.
3.42pm AEST: It is not just the 200 to 300 millimetres of rain and 90km/h winds southeast Queensland has to worry about over the weekend - some of the biggest high tides of the year could be about to his.
In a briefing to media Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rob Webb said people in coastal areas needed to be wary.
‘‘It’s not just rainfall that this event has caused, there have been some damaging winds around areas and we do see a threat of that as it comes through the central part and passes down into southeast Queensland,’’ he said.
‘‘And also, abnormally high tides, the system has brought a slight seal level anomaly as it’s come south which means tomorrow morning’s high tide, and Sunday morning’s high tide from the Fraser Coast down to the border will approach, if not exceed the highest tide of the year.
‘‘Places along the Gold Coast, along the Sunshine Coast and even in Moreton Bay may see tides that are the highest of the year and that’s important, to note that.’’
About 3000 people are booked in to spend the Australia Day long weekend on Fraser Island with 300 campers already there.
Premier Campbell Newman has stopped short of warning people against heading to the island for the long weekend but said they should definitely think about it, especially with the high tides coming.
‘‘I have many good holiday memories of sitting in a tent while it’s raining outside but it might not be everyone’s idea of a good time,’’ he said.
3.13pm AEST: Redland City Council has issued advice for people living and travelling to the region and its islands this weekend, with monsoonal conditions and tidal surges forecast.
Though "tempting" to some, Mayor Karen Williams said localised flash flooding, higher than usual tides and winds up to 90km/hour were dangerous conditions best avoided.
“The Bureau of Meteorology predicts damaging winds, heavy rain, abnormally high tides and dangerous surf conditions across the Redlands and south-east Queensland,” she said.
“Those using the beaches on North Stradbroke Island – whether four-wheel-driving or camping – need to be extra careful due to predicted tidal surges and possible beach erosion.”
Ms Williams said everyone was responsible for avoiding "tragedies" suffered during similar coniditons in previous years.
2.45pm AEST: Authorities have found a man previously feared to have been in a car which was swept off the road by flooding in central Queensland.
Shortly after 1pm, an RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter was heading to a bridge north of Middlemount, in central Queensland, where a car had reportedly been washed off the road and was submerged up to its roof.
‘‘Concerns for the person who may have been in the car at the time it was swept off the road have been relieved after he was found in Nebo [a small town southwest of Mackay],’’ a spokeswoman said in a statement issued about 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, appalling weather conditions are preventing a helicopter from reaching a group of people trapped by rising floodwaters near Rockhampton.
The group, believed to be up to five people, made a panicked call for help about 10am (AEST) from Wycarbah, southwest of the flood-hit Queensland city.
State Emergency Service crews were unable to reach them and a helicopter was tasked with going to their aid. But heavy rain and strong winds have prevented it from taking off.
The remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald are dumping torrential rain across central Queensland after lashing the state’s north.
The former cyclone, which was about 120 kilometres west of Mackay on Friday morning, has caused flooding, damaged buildings, isolated towns and created landslides.
Emergency services have rescued more than a dozen people caught in floodwaters in central Queensland and bad weather is hampering the search for two fisherman whose boat started taking on water off flood-hit Rockhampton overnight.
The skipper of the 38-foot fishing vessel made an SOS call about 11.20pm (AEST) on Thursday.
Also in Rockhampton, two people were rescued Friday after their boat overturned in floodwaters.
The Department of Community Safety said the two were washed into the Fitzroy River after their boat overturned in Gavail Creek at Depot Hill just after 11am (AEST) on Friday.
An SES boat and swift water rescue team saved the pair who were walked to a rescue station where they were interviewed by police.
The intense low is slowly tracking south and is expected to hit the Sunshine Coast on Friday afternoon, and Brisbane on Saturday.
12.27pm AEST: Water levels in southeast Queensland dams will be reduced to protect urban areas from any flooding associated with ex-tropical cyclone Oswald.
Premier Campbell Newman said water releases from Wivenhoe/Somerset and North Pine dams would begin on Friday afternoon. ‘‘We’re adopting a precautionary principle here,’’ he told reporters.
Seqwater did not advise the move, with the order instead coming from Energy and Supply Minister Mark McArdle's office.
Mr McArdle and Mr Newman said the move was a bid to reassure people who were concerned about river flooding.
The Wivenhoe Dam system is currently about 91 per cent full in the water supply capacity and about 41,000 megalitres will be released over the next 24 hours.
Mr Newman said the real concern in Brisbane over the weekend would be suburban flooding.
12.01pm AEST: Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow says it appears the worst of the deluge is over for the central Queensland city.
The torrential rain has eased to a light drizzle, she told Fairfax.
Rockhampton has received a record 320 millimetres in the past 24 hours - a summer record for the city.
‘‘The ground is totally sodden. There’s just so much water,’’ Cr Strelow said.
‘‘We’re feeling like the worst is over. We’re hoping we’ll start to have some normality this afternoon.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of clean up to do. Our emergency workers, as you can image, have worked through the night.’’
Some aircraft are unable to take off from Rockhampton Airport due to flooding on the runway, poor visibility and low cloud. Travellers are advised to check with their airline.
Rail services between Bundaberg and Rockhampton have been closed.
11.36am AEST: Supermarket giant Coles says supplies to 26 of its 32 stores in far north Queensland had been affected by the torrential rain and flooding.
Stores in Rockhampton and at Yeppoon had also been forced to close.
With rail lines cut, supplies are being trucked from Townsville to Cairns via Charters Towers.
‘‘We ask our customers to be patient and not to panic buy as there are groceries on the way,’’ Coles managing director Ian McLeod said.
Meanwhile, the state and federal governments say more assistance will be made available for flood-hit communities in the far north.
Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements have been extended to the local government areas of Cassowary Coast, Hinchinbrook, Hope Vale, Palm Island and Wujal Wujal.
11:30am AEST: A search is underway for two fisherman whose boat started taking on water off flood-hit Rockhampton overnight.
The skipper of the 38-foot fishing vessel made the call about 11.20pm (AEST) last night.
He told authorities he was in Casuarina Passage.
Police say rough weather conditions prevented authorities from launching an immediate search and heavy rain and high winds are hampering today’s air and sea search.
10.57am AEST: It's headed our way: Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is urging residents in low-lying areas prone to creek flooding to stock up on sandbags after a severe weather warning was issued for areas within the city limits.
Areas particularly at risk including Norman Creek, Bulimba Creek, Breakfast Creek/Enoggera Creek, Zilman Waterhole (Boondall), Stable Swamp/Oxley Creek, and Cabbage Tree Creek. But Cr Quirk said residents should remain alert not alarmed.
10.40am AEST: Shipments out of Gladstone Harbour in central Queensland have been suspended as a result of the extreme weather, the ABC reports.
And the Sunshine Coast is preparing to cop the brunt of the tropical low tracking south.
The region's disaster coordinator, Alan Rogers, has urged people to "be careful of and stay well away from the water".
"Saturday there will be powerful surf obviously, but Sunday it looks like it'll be at its peak," he told 612 ABC Brisbane.
"Certainly around the high tide we do expect the water to get right up to the coastal edge and could exceed the highest tide of the year."
10.14am AEST: There has been a large landslide in the central Queensland city of Rockhampton as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald inundates the region.
Residents of Archerview Terrace in the Rockhampton suburb of Frenchville called emergency services about 8.20am after a landslide hit their home.
"There's a large amount of mud resting up against the lower level of the two-storey house," a Department of Community Safety spokeswoman said.
"Firefighters were called, but they weren't required to shore up the house."
No one was injured in the landslide. Local council engineers will inspect the property later today.
Meanwhile, Rockhampton resident Mary Anne Drury says water in her street in Frenchville has left her isolated in her home:
"We have about two feet of water over the street," she told ABC radio.
"You really cannot access the road at all. We can't get out of our driveway.
"The surface of the road has lifted - it's standing up on its end in places. There's sheets of bitumen and the water is gushing against and sending geysers up into the air."
9.05am AEST: Dramatic scenes have unfolded in central Queensland where a teenager has been rescued from raging floodwaters.
The 14-year-old boy was found clinging to a tree in floodwaters in the Rockhampton suburb of Frenchville about 7.20am on Friday.
Six swift water rescue crews rushed to the scene at Honour Street. The teen was rescued about 7.55am.
He was taken to Rockhampton Base Hospital by ambulance as a precaution. It's understood he was swimming in a creek when he was swept away by the fast-flowing water.
Emergency crews have rescued dozens of people from houses, cars and trees as central Queensland floods.
Meanwhile, Gladstone's sewage system is overflowing, sending excrement into homes.
The local council is using sandbags to try to weigh down manholes to prevent the problem from becoming worse.
"It comes up through man holes and bubbles into properties. It’s not pleasant," Mayor Gail Sellers told the ABC.
There were 20 swift water rescues in the region overnight, mostly in and around the central Queensland city of Rockhampton.
State Emergency Services volunteers managed to help the occupants of two cars reach safety after they became stuck in rising floodwaters on the Bruce Highway at Bobs Creek, south of Rockhampton, about 3.45am on Friday.
At Kabra, southwest of Rockhampton, SES crews helped rescue seven people trapped two in houses.
And a woman and two children were rescued by the SES after their vehicle became isolated by floodwaters at the Mackenzie River, near Middle Mount, northwest of Rockhampton.
The Department of Community Safety said it was awaiting information on the rescue of a man stuck in a tree at Biloela, southwest of Gladstone.
In the last 24 hours, the SES has responded to 280 calls for help across north and central Queensland. Of those calls, 100 were in and around Rockhampton, 43 in Mackay, and 40 in Gladstone.
At Yepoon, northeast of Rockhampton, more than 10 homes have reportedly flooded.
A trough formed by ex-cyclone Oswald dumped up to 500 millimetres of rain on small towns as it tracked south along the east coast of Australia on Thursday.
It delivered between 100 and 200 millimetres of rain to areas between Ingham and Bundaberg in just six hours on Thursday.
Floodwaters cut the town of Ingham in half, and completely isolated others, including Halifax and Lucinda.
At Upper Dee, south of Rockhampton, 495 millimetres of rain has fallen since 9am yesterday.
"That's 495 millimetres in 22 hours," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Brett Harrison said.
At nearby Beschs Hill 393 millimetres of rain was recorded in the same period, Mr Harrison said.
Rockhampton has received 302 millimetres in the past 24 hours, while 300 millimetres has been dumped on Yepoon.
Hundreds of millimetres of rain could be dumped on southeast Queensland in the coming days as the "Big Wet" makes its way down the coast in time for the Australia Day long weekend.
Another 100-200 millimetres of rain is expected to fall between Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast on Friday, and similar falls are possible over Brisbane and the Gold Coast on the weekend.
Mr Harrison said between 50 and 100 millimetres of rain was expected in Brisbane on Friday.
Brisbane's northern suburbs recorded the heaviest falls overnight. Geebung received 61 millimetres, while Mitchelton received 53 millimetres and Aspley 52 millimetres.
Little more than 20 millimetres fell in the city's southern suburbs.
But few places will escape the deluge come Friday afternoon, Mr Harrison said.
"We'll start to see heavier falls this afternoon, but the worst of it will come late Saturday, into Sunday," he said.
"We could see between 100 and 200 millimetres in Brisbane from Saturday."
There are also predictions of "destructive" wind gusts which could reach up to 90 km/h in Brisbane.
The winds could whip up dangerous sea conditions, causing more erosion on Gold Coast beaches, according to the bureau.
There were concerns the cyclone would reform on Sunday, but that has become increasingly unlikely.
Brisbane is expected to reach a top of 25 degrees on Friday and on the weekend.
The SES can be contacted on 132 500. If your vehicle becomes trapped in floodwaters always dial Triple-0 (000).
- Marissa Calligeros, Bridie Jabour and Danielle Cronin with AAP