Wednesday 26 April 2017

Desperate bid to build levees as locals hope for best

Bonnie Malkin in Sydney

EMERGENCY teams were struggling last night to defend the small Queensland town of St George from devastating floods.

Rising waters have swept across the state, engulfing hundreds of homes and killing three people.

More than 200,000 people and 22 communities across a region the size of Germany and France combined have suffered flooding. Several towns have been warned that the worst is yet to come.

St George, a community of 3,500 people, 310 miles west of Brisbane, has been isolated by floodwater. Authorities are rushing to build sandbag levees at low points around the town, and residents are hastily building moats around their homes.

It is feared that up to 80pc of the town's houses could be flooded when the Balonne River peaks at a height of 45ft early next week.

Fears over the flood promp-ted the local hospital to fly seriously ill people to Brisbane. The remaining patients will be discharged and flown to safety. The town's nursing home is to be evacuated today.



Worse

For residents remaining in the town, two helicopters are on standby. It is not the first time the town has been hit by severe floods. Last March, the region experienced a "once-in-a-century" flood that saw the river rise to 44ft. But the Bureau of Meteorology has warned that the coming flood will be worse.

Donna Stewart, Balonne shire mayor, said the levees would minimise the damage.

She said: "We've been frantically building levee banks across the entry points and raising them to 47ft".

Ms Stewart said that despite the town's efforts, 30 homes would be engulfed.

Paul English spent A$5,000 (€3,780) building a levee of dirt around his St George home, which was flooded in March. He said his wife, teenage daughter and son had no plans to move but it would be a nervous wait. "You don't know how tough it is until you live through it," he said. "It's hard to get over ... but you just have to get on with it." Elsewhere in the state, flooding continued to wreak havoc. Last night, the coastal city of Rockhampton was bracing for the Fitzroy River to peak at a height of 30ft.

The city of 77,000 people was virtually shut off from the rest of the country and large areas are expected to be under water for up to 10 days. Residents have been told to stay out of the murky water due to swarms of snakes and rumours of saltwater crocodiles. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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