THREE hundred people had their seaside town, Hydeaway Bay, declared a disaster area yesterday, while in Mackay water lapped at the doors of businesses and motorists faced traffic gridlock as floodwater blocked access to roads.
Almost 1000mm of rain has fallen on Mackay in March, hundreds of those in the last few days, driving many people insane.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts yesterday declared Hydeaway Bay a disaster zone after it was struck by two mudslides about 6.30pm on Wednesday, causing police to evacuate 14 homes in Gloucester Avenue, Rattray Avenue and Roseric Crescent.
One of the slips, which came about 40 hours after a 30m-wide landslide ploughed through the area, created a sea of mud forceful enough to carry a boat about 30m to the middle of Saddleback Rd, however, only one home was damaged.
Mandatory 48-hour evacuation orders were applied to 10 homes after geotechnical engineer Graeme Jardine yesterday confirmed more landslides could occur if heavy rain continued.
A smaller landslide was cleared from Cape Hillsborough Road yesterday, and there was concern about the impact of further rain on Eungella Range, which had a landslide on Tuesday night.
Hydeaway Bay resident Pat O’Brien said the mudslide that stopped just 30 metres from his back fence sounded like a jet plane, while Mick Butcher described it as “the loudest thunder you have ever heard for three to four minutes”.
Diana and Reg Henderson, of Gloucester Avenue, who evacuated to Hydeaway Bay Caravan Park in their motor home on Wednesday night, were among those hoping the rain would ease.
“Everyone is pitching in (to clean up) – it’s a good little community,” Mrs Henderson said. “We’re just wondering what the weather is going to do for the next few days.”
Whitsunday regional mayor Mike Brunker said 100mm of rain in the next few days could cause more landslides at Hydeaway Bay.
“It’s a huge escarpment and there’s not too much we can do at this stage,” Cr Brunker said. “The main problem is if it keeps raining.”
Cr Brunker said prolonged rain had made life difficult for those living in the Whitsunday region, who relied heavily on farming and tourism.
“It’s just been bloody awful, particularly in Proserpine – it’s averaged four and five inches a week.
“It just hasn’t let up and that’s probably why we’re in the situation we’re in. What we really need is about six months of sunshine so you can start picking things up.”
Despite the traumatic few days experienced by many Hydeaway Bay residents, Mr O’Brien said the latest landslips should not stop tourists from venturing north to what was still a lovely seaside town.
“It’s still good for fishing and it’s a good tourist spot.”
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