Thursday 18 July 2019

'Crocodiles are climbing trees... we've never seen anything like it' - Irish family forced to evacuate Queensland home in record flooding

  • Irish family forced to abandon their Australian home due to severe flooding
  • Parents fear they will be unable to get medication for their son, who suffers from epilepsy
  • 'We got no warning at all to leave... everything happened so quickly' - Mick Doyle tells Independent.ie
Mick Doyle, his wife Rachel and their three kids
Mick Doyle, his wife Rachel and their three kids
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

An Irish family forced to abandon their Australia home due to severe flooding fear they will be unable to get medication for their son, who suffers from epilepsy, as there's no road access within five miles.

Father-of-three Mick Doyle, originally from Saggart, Dublin described how crocodiles are climbing trees to escape the gushing waters in Townsville, Queensland.

A crocodile climbing a tree in Queensland Photo: Mick Doyle
A crocodile climbing a tree in Queensland Photo: Mick Doyle

"We've never seen anything like this before," he said.

He and his wife Rachel have been living in Australia for over seven years and bought their first family home two years ago.

Now the Dubliner fears their house will be completely destroyed after they had to evacuate on Sunday.

His eldest child suffers from epilepsy and autism and they are worried about getting access to medication.

An aerial view shows flood waters in the suburb of Hyde Park, Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, February 4, 2019. AAP Image/Dave Acree/via REUTERS
An aerial view shows flood waters in the suburb of Hyde Park, Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, February 4, 2019. AAP Image/Dave Acree/via REUTERS
An aerial view shows the flood-affected area in Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Queensland Government Air/via REUTERS
A man reclines on a unicorn float in floodwater on Bowen Road in Rosslea district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Nathan Hughes via REUTERS
Floodwater flows over the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Nathan Hughes via REUTERS
Ross River Dam releases water in Queensland, Australia, in this still photo from a February 3, 2019 video by Julia Hunt. Julia Hunt/Social Media/via REUTERS
Flooding is seen in Bicentennial Park in Queensland, Australia, in this still photo from a February 3, 2019 drone video footage by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services/Social Media/via REUTERS
Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS
Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS
SES volunteers are seen rescuing residents in Rosslea, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 2, 2019. Picture taken February 2, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Amelia Rankin stands in flooded waters in Hermit Park, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Residents evacuating to higher ground in Hermit Park, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 3, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Flooding is seen in Rosslea, Townsville, Queensland, Australia February 2, 2019. Picture taken February 2, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Rankin/via REUTERS
Rocks are seen blocking Muller Street in Wulguru, Townsville, as flooding continues in northern Queensland, Australia February 1, 2019
Local resident Paul Shafer and his daughter Lily stand in floodwaters near star pickets that show where the storm water cover has been removed in Hermit Park, Townsville, northern Queensland, Australia
This handout from the Australia Department of Defence taken on February 2, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019
This handout from the Australia Department of Defence taken on February 2, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville.
This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville.Photo by Handout / QUEENSLAND FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES / AFP
A handout picture provided by Queensland Police Service, taken on February 2, 2019 and release on February 3 shows two police officers wading in flood waters in Townsville.Photo by Queensland Police Service
A handout photo taken by Erin Hahn on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, shows a crocodile during the floods in Townsville.
A handout photo taken and recieved February 4, 2019, from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) shows the flooding in Townsville. Photo by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
A handout photo taken and recieved February 4, 2019, from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) shows the flooding in Townsville. Photo by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

"We got no warning at all to leave... everything happened so quickly," Mr Doyle told Independent.ie.

"If we had left it another 20 minutes yesterday we wouldn't have made it out of our house.

"It's been really stressful. We fear everything will be destroyed when we go back. We brought the things that mean most to us but had to leave so much of our belongings behind.

"We've got three small kids, aged nine, four and two. Our eldest has epilepsy and it has been a massive upheaval for him. The other two kids think we're on holidays as we're staying with friends.

"The hospitals are closed and are only opening for emergency cases and there's no road access within five miles of where we are now. We're running low on medication for our son but we hope it will be okay and the rain will stop."

Queensland has been hit with its heaviest floods in a century after torrential rain poured over the weekend, while the south of Australia bakes in sizzling temperatures.

Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS
Floodwater flows by the Aplins Weir Rotary Park footbridge in Mundingburra district, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Feburary 3, 2019 in this still taken from social media video. Marissa Papageorge via REUTERS

Hundreds of residents have already been evacuated after days of monsoon rains lashed on the region.

Crocodiles and snakes have been spotted in the water and people's driveways as army troops and police in boats have been searching for residents in need of help.

"The crocodiles don't like fast moving water so they've been climbing up trees," Mr Doyle said.

"We've never seen anything like this... we fear our cars are going to be gone when we get back. We haven't been able to get any sleep at all. I work as an electrician and was on call all week so it has been a difficult time.

Local resident Paul Shafer and his daughter Lily stand in floodwaters near star pickets that show where the storm water cover has been removed in Hermit Park, Townsville, northern Queensland, Australia
Local resident Paul Shafer and his daughter Lily stand in floodwaters near star pickets that show where the storm water cover has been removed in Hermit Park, Townsville, northern Queensland, Australia

"Because of the heat and the humidity we're worried our house will be covered in mould from the floor to the ceiling.

"We found out the hard way when we moved to Australia about rainy season and lost a lot of valuable stuff in our first year... we got things to dehumidify the rooms but we're worried that the dehumidifiers won't work this time round."

He said they had to leave family photographs behind and other "invaluable items".

Photo Vincent Meehan
Photo Vincent Meehan

Between 150mm and 200mm of rain fell across the weekend - equal to about a month's average rainfall.

Australia's tropical north expects heavy rains during the monsoon season at this time of the year, but the recent rainfall was far above normal. 

Local authorities are deliberately flooding a number of areas after the record rainfall pushed a dam beyond capacity.

Dave Cullen of the North Queensland Irish Association said the rain "just hasn't stopped".

"The problem it’s just kept on raining... water is just gushing out as they had to open the floodgates of the dam."

Mr Cullen said the crocodiles in the water aren't the main fear.

"They are warning people about snakes and to be careful in pools of water, that's what's a danger for people," he said.

Vincent Meehan, from Co Leitrim, owns a Specsavers branch in the local Townsville shopping centre.

He had to send staff home after the centre was evacuated over the weekend.

Mr Meehan, who moved to Queensland in 2015 with his wife, described the chaos as he tried to stock up on food.

"We knew things were starting to get serious because the floods weren't going away," he said.

"We started to go down to the shops to try and get some food. There was barely anything left on the shelves. No meat, no bread, no bottled water. I was in the st ore for ten minutes and next minute there was an announcement asking all shoppers to leave. I couldn't even pay for the groceries... I went to another shop and the only meat left was dog meat."

Mr Meehan's house has luckily been unaffected but some of his friends haven't been so lucky.

"At least two of my friends had 20cm of water in their house. People might find it hard to believe that it comes on quickly but it does. It was raining the same level all week and there was nothing different and then all of a sudden it started to overspill.

"We're suffering a big loss of earnings now as we haven't been able to open Specsavers since Saturday morning. We have insurance but these things take a long time to pan out. We closed early on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and now we can't open as there's no power and we can't get an electrician to fix it".

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