Monday 27 February 2017

Eldest resident stays put as Oz flood waters continue to rise

Bonnie Malkin in Rockhampton

When Collie Kime heard that a big flood was coming, he moved his horses and car to higher ground, then went back to his house to sit it out.

Yesterday, 12 days later, he was still there, sitting on his porch, his raised Queenslander four-room home surrounded by six-foot deep flood water the colour of milky tea. It runs like a torrent through the storage area beneath his living room, just inches from the floorboards.

Mr Kime, who at 81 is the oldest resident of the Rockhampton suburb of Port Curtis, has not left his home once since the flooding started on December 27.

As I visited by boat, a six-foot long brown snake of a species whose venom can kill an adult swam past his front gate. But Mr Kime said he was not alarmed by the poisonous reptiles that now plague the town.

"I've had a few come through here trying to get dry and bothering me, but I just pick up my walking stick and give them a good whack."

Despite police and emergency services urging him to move from his isolated house, where he lives alone, he has vowed to stay put with only his dog Patch and budgerigar for company. Friends and neighbours visit each day to bring him bread, milk and supplies of beer.

"I'm happy here and I'm not going anywhere. After all, I've got a nice view of the river now," he said.

Mr Kime is likely to remain marooned is his home, three miles south-west of the centre of Rockhampton, for at least another 10 days.

The flooding that affects 200 houses in the suburbs of Depot Hill, Beserker, Port Curtis and Lake's Creek has now reached what residents hope will be a peak of 31 foot, though fresh rains may swell it further.

Everyone in town is keeping a watchful eye on the river level marker, a pole fixed in the flooded Fitzroy river that records the official height of the waters.

Even if the rain stops, it will still take weeks for the flood to recede fully, leaving mud and debris.

The extent and scale of the "biblical" flooding across the state of Queensland has caught Australia off guard.

A country used to assisting its Asian neighbours during earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, has received offers of aid from Indonesia, New Zealand and the US.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged financial support for the country's flood-hit northeast on Friday during a tour of the most heavily inundated parts of Queensland state.

Ms Gillard went to towns whose streets have been turned into waterways by the deluge that left an area the size of France and Germany combined under water.

The floods have swamped coal mines and hit agriculture hard, washed away roads and railways, killed four, and brought the country's $50bn (€38.4bn) coal export industry to a near standstill.

Some river levels have hit records and some are still rising with further rain forecast for this weekend. Months more wet weather is predicted, brought by the La Nina weather phenomenon.

"The scale of the floodwaters, the sheer size of this is best appreciated from the air and we are talking about huge areas, lots of water, a lot of it still very fast moving and so it's going to be a long time back," Ms Gillard told a news conference in the flooded town of Rockhampton, 600km north of the state capital Brisbane.

Asked how much it would cost Australia's federal government, she said: "I've been very clear that we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

© The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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