Families rescued as flooding turns to disaster levels
A DISASTER situation has been declared and evacuations could be ordered following flooding across north Queensland impacting on Ingham and Halifax homes, cutting major roads and forcing the closure of schools.
This afternoon, a young mum and her four kids had to be rescued from their Ingham home after it went under.
Jamie Purcell said it was a very scary experience.
"We are OK now that we got rescued," she said.
"The water just came up and it started rising in the front yard and then it started rising up to the veranda so I started panicking and I knew I needed to get help."
Ms Purcell said her house on Fairford Rd would go under water and she would lose a lot of her belongings.
Ms Purcell said getting the kids to safety was the most important thing.
"They're OK now," she said.
The family gathered all they could before Queensland Fire and Rescue Service crews and the police got them out of the house.
"I'm only new to Ingham and it's my very first time experiencing something like this, it's really quite scary," Ms Purcell said.
Despite the terrible situation the family faces, a good Samaritan was on hand to offer them a place to stay.
"That was really nice," Ms Purcell said.
She thanked all the emergency services for their help.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council's Mayor John Kremastos has continued to urge residents in the Johnstone River catchment to make immediate preparations to minimise the impact of any flooding that may occur if they have not already done so.
"The Bureau of Meteorology have issued another Major Flood Warning and I urge all residents to make themselves aware of the current conditions," he said
"Residents are reminded to move vehicles and outdoor equipment to high locations and if flooding is imminent move furniture, clothes, important documentation and electrical equipment to a higher area.
"With reports of further rain this evening residents are asked to ensure they are aware of road conditions before they travel and to only travel if it's a necessity."
Residents are also reminded to keep out of flood waters and remain vigilant as small crocodiles have been spotted in flooded low lying areas.
"Due to the amount of water small crocodiles have been spotted adjacent to some fast flowing water and I encourage all to keep out of flood waters and drains and also to remind children of the dangers of flooded areas," Mr Kremastos said.
EARLIER: PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk convened a meeting with the State Disaster Management Committee this afternoon after 300mm of rain fell around Ingham and Innisfail overnight.
Premier Palaszczuk said about a third of the state was currently feeling the impacts of heavy rain.
"What we've seen is 200mm to 300mm of rain fall around the Ingham, Innisfail and Halifax area in the last 24 hours," she said.
"We do expect more houses to feel the effects of inundation.
"We have areas out west that are isolated as well.
"In effect, about a third of our council areas in our state have been impacted."
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll said about 200 homes were currently inundated as floodwater rises to levels similar to the 2009 flood.
"Probably around 10 houses at this stage in Innisfail (are inundated)," she said.
"Crews on the ground in Ingham are getting an indication that some 40 houses have been inundated in north of Ingham, some 130 in south of Ingham and some 40 in Halifax.
"We've had some 108 SES jobs in the past 24 hours. A lot of that is to do with tarping and sandbagging. There have been seven instances of rescue attempts in the far north region and some ten in the northern region and that is around Ingham and Halifax. Four of those were due to silly behaviour."
A flood warning was issued for the Herbert River, which runs through Ingham, north of Townsville, after up to 600mm of rain fell across catchment areas in the past three days.
Water levels are peaking at 14.7m, similar to February 2009 flood levels.
"Flood levels are expected to slowly ease overnight Friday but remain above the major flood level, 12m, Saturday morning," the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Bureau of Meteorology Forecaster David Grant said in 24 hours to 9am today rainfall totals had been in excess of 100mm between Mossman and Ingham.
He said Kirrama Range, about 10km north of Cardwell recorded 409mm, Millaa Millaa received 297mm and Cairns Airport recorded 116mm.
"Since then most of the rain rainfall has contracted north away from Ingham but there has been considerable rainfall in the area from Daintree and to around Tully," he said.
Emergency response crews conducted welfare checks while others were on standby to assist when waters recede and the extent of the damage was revealed.
The disaster declaration will give emergency serviced the powers they needed to respond effectively to the flood, Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said.
"Under these arrangements people and traffic may need to be directed from affected areas and evacuations may need to be undertaken, and the disaster declaration will ensure the appropriate actions can be taken if that situation arises," Mr Crawford said.
The Bureau of Meteorology said that a record flood peak if around 9m is possible for the Murray River at Murray Flats near Tully this afternoon and the Tully River at Euramo is currently at 8.88m and rising.
The river level at Euramo is expected to peak near the major flood level of 9m, close to the February 2009 flood peak of 9.04m.
Heavy rainfall around the Far North has caused localised flooding around Cairns and more road closures including reports of trees down and landslides on Cape Tribulation Road.
Foxton Bridge at Mossman is closed and the Mossman crossing is about to be closed due to flooding.
EARLIER: A GROUP of Townsville students on school camp in north Queensland have been isolated as heavy rains continue to cut off towns in the region.
Eight teachers and 72 Year 6 students from The Willows State School are trapped at the Echo Creek adventure park after roads between Cairns and Townsville were swamped by 200-250mm of rain over the past 24 hours.
A parent told the Townville Bulletin the children were supposed to return Wednesday morning but were still flooded in this morning.
The Willows State School P&C issued an urgent message overnight.
"Please be reminded that the co-ordination of the camp situation is in the hands of the Disaster Management Team and Experts on the ground ready to act when they can," a Willows State School P&C spokesman said.
"Our student safety and responses to this situation are being co-ordinated by local Disaster Management and Queensland Police Service."
A Queensland Police spokesman said the group was safe and in constant contact with authorities.
Emergency services won't attempt to rescue them due to safety risks, but were this morning preparing to provide them with food supplies.
The spokesman said a father of one of the children had driven through floodwaters and attempted to paddle a canoe to the group yesterday, but had later turned back.
In a message to parents yesterday, the school's principal, Helen McCullough, said staying at the site was the safest option.
"We know that parents would like to talk with students, however at this stage we need the telephone communications open for the team to contact the camp," she wrote on the school's Facebook page.
"Students and staff are continuing to do activities and there is plenty of food supplies available."
Education Minister Grace Grace thanked police, emergency services, teachers and staff who are caring for the students.
"I am advised that every effort is being made to comfort students who have been unable to leave the Echo Creek Adventure Camp because of flooding," Minister Grace said.
"The camp is safe and the students, eight staff and a parent there have food and shelter. Police are currently working to resupply them with food and other necessities."
Ms Grace said she had been assured by police that the party would be moved as soon as it was safe to do so.
"The latest information I have received is that floodwaters are expected to recede over the next 48 hours."
Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford added his thanks to all those involved.
"The safety and wellbeing of the children is the top priority and the situation is being monitored constantly," he said.
EARLIER: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Michael O'Neill said the QFES had conducted at least four rescues this morning, assisting people to evacuate from flooded areas.
"The State Emergency Service has had 12 jobs including a variety of jobs to help the community prepare," he said.
Hinchinbrook Shire Council Mayor Ramon Jayo has warned residents the town could be isolated for some days safety must be taken seriously.
Ingham school kids were sent home early yesterday, as locals stripped supermarket shelves of essential supplies.
Reporter Chris Lees is on the scene and said no one was going anywhere.
"The town is cut in half and there are about 18 firefighters - with half on each side of the town," he said.
Flood waters have crept across suburban streets and into backyards, lapping at the front steps of homes.
"I had a look out the window at about four o'clock and there was nothing in the yard that I could see," Ingham resident Felix Scerri told the ABC.
"I've just woken up in the last few minutes and there is water everywhere I can see."
At least 14 schools and one child care centre in north and far north Queensland remain closed today.
Major flood warnings remain in place for the Herbert, Tully, Murray, North Johnstone, Mulgrave, Russell and Flinders rivers. Moderate and minor flood warnings are in place for many other rivers in the region.
Authorities are pleading with motorists not to cross flooded roads.
Yesterday, Cairns tradie Sam Greenwood staged a heroic rescue of a motorist caught in a car that was floating away on the Gillies Highway.
The electrician dived into the water and swam to the vehicle, finding a man inside struggling to keep his head above the water.