Bundaberg residents have 'nothing left'
Record water levels moving at an "extremely fast" rate Monday leave hundreds of Bundaberg residents with "heart wrenching" damage to their homes.PT1M52S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dhto 620 349 January 29, 2013
An emergency airlift was the only option for hundreds of 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 of the army's Black Hawks.
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
The community is awash with floodwaters, with about 2000 people spending the night in evacuation centres after a dramatic, last-minute air evacuation mission on Monday.
A fleet of helicopters was used to rescue about 1000 stranded residents from the most at-risk areas, leaving them in the care of volunteers and authorities staffing at least nine evacuation centres.
On Tuesday, a key focus will be the evacuation of all patients from the local hospital.
Ten high-care patients have already been moved, with about 190 others to follow on Tuesday, Queensland disaster managers say.
The defence force and the Royal Flying Doctor Service will be involved in the operation, with patients to be sent to Brisbane hospitals.
Melissa Smith, who was rescued from the roof of her Bundaberg North home, was devastated.
"There's debris everywhere. Trampolines are everywhere. The kid's stuff just everywhere. It's all gone," she told ABC radio.
Evacuees bunkered down at schools and the new Agro-Trend showgrounds, anxiously awaiting daybreak to reveal the extent of the damage.
The Burnett River reached 9.3 metres by midnight on Monday, but Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jony Hall said it could rise further as water flowed in from the towns of Mundubbera and Gayndah.
The river peaked at 23 metres in Mundubbera about midnight on Sunday, just shy of the 1942 flood record of 23.6 metres.
"All that water is flowing through the Burnett River in a north-easterly direction towards Bundaberg on the coast," Mr Hall said.
The Bundaberg Hospital will begin the process of evacuating its 131 patients on Tuesday morning.
On Monday afternoon, Premier Campbell Newman said the government estimated about 1500 people were trapped after staying in their houses despite a mandatory evacuation order issued to the 5000 people in North Bundaberg.
He warned there was a strong possibility houses would be swept away.
"These are record floods. We are in uncharted territories," Mr Newman said.
As Mr Newman addressed the media, about 300 evacuees who had been airlifted from northern Bundaberg to an evacuation centre at Oakwood State School were being moved again. They were taken to Agro Trends near the Bundaberg Airport.
Bundaberg Police Superintendent Rowan Bond said floodwaters were expected to tear through the sugar town at 20 metres per second.
"That water will have a catastrophic effect on houses, particularly the timber houses," Superintendent Bond said.
"We believe that there is an imminent danger of people being killed and drowned."
The Burnett River is expected to peak at up to 10 metres on Tuesday.
– additional reporting by Bridie Jabour with AAP