The radar for Townsville this morning. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology
The radar for Townsville this morning. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

Dire warning as downpour hammers QLD

RESIDENTS in north Queensland are hoping their homes remain safe from flooding as the region's one-in-100 year downpour continues.

More than the annual rainfall has fallen on parts of the state in the past week, creating a disaster area stretching 700km along the coast from Cairns to Mackay.

Last night, 500 homes were at risk of going under in Townsville, with tens of thousands more to join them if the crisis worsens.

Police, soldiers and emergency services spent Saturday doorknocking in Townsville to warn residents, who have been advised to watch out for updates on the disaster.

"If the rain continues overnight and into tomorrow, if we keep going the way we are today, we are talking about 10,000 to 20,000 homes," Chief Superintendent Steve Munro told reporters.

"I'm really imploring to the people in those vulnerable areas, start thinking now about what you are going to do."

There are 80,000 homes in Townsville.

"We are in uncharted territory here," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said of the "unprecedented" downpour.

"But please do not panic. We have a plan, we just want you to be safe."

The radar for Townsville this morning. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology
The radar for Townsville this morning. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

This morning the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning for areas around Rollingstone and Bluewater, saying the storms could lead to flash flooding.

It also extended its severe weather warning as far south as Winton, and warned residents to be watchful for potential flooding of the Ross, Herbert, Tully and Murray rivers.

The Bureau said there had been "extremely heavy falls" since 9am yesterday, with 506mm recorded at Ingham Pump Station, 415mm at Halifax, 309mm at Cardwell Gap and 271mm at South Mission Beach.

It fears there could be up to two more metres of rain before the deluge relents, potentially leading to "catastrophic" flooding.

The monsoonal rain has already been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia, with losses estimated at $16.7 million and the worst yet to come.

Disaster assistance has been extended for communities in Townsville, Charters Towers, Palm Island, Richmond and Burdekin, the Queensland government announced on Saturday night.

It will be delivered through the jointly funded Commonwealth-Queensland Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

About 100 homes were evacuated near the bulging Ross River dam as water was released, but it was back up to 216 per cent capacity by Saturday evening.

 

A couple head home down a flooded street in Townsville. Photo: Michael Chambers.
A couple head home down a flooded street in Townsville. Photo: Michael Chambers.

Paul Shafer and his family lost two cars, a truck and a caravan when water was released from the dam, a risky move designed to spare the town from more widespread flooding.

He understood the decision but said it was demoralising to see the destruction at his Hermit Park park home.

"We have decided to stay rather than evacuate, we still have electricity but it will be a sleepless night ahead, that's for sure."

Meanwhile the Courier-Mail spoke to Randall Parker, who evacuated his family on a blow-up air bed after the water level rose as high as the couch inside his unit.

"It is just unbelievable, we've never seen anything like it," Mr Parker said.

"It just keeps bucketing down."

The rain and flash flooding began a week ago, causing power and phone outages, closing roads and businesses and inundating homes.

Four tourists trapped in a car were rescued by a grazier in a helicopter after being stranded by the flooded Diamantina River near Middleton yesterday.

State Disaster Coordinator Bob Gee is urging people to stay out of the water and check emergency and weather warnings - which are updated regularly.

- with AAP

Roads in Hermit Park underwater as Townsville continues to flood. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Roads in Hermit Park underwater as Townsville continues to flood. Picture: Alix Sweeney

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