Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Australia's devastating flooding hits Tasmania

I shall add to this over the day

Five dead, three missing as flooding continues to threaten Tasmania

8 June, 2016

Three people remain missing and five people are known to be dead, as the massive storm cell that devastated parts of Australia's east coast causes record flooding in Tasmania.

The body of a woman has been found in northern Tasmania, a day after her husband was rescued through the roof of their flooded home.

Earlier today, police rescued a woman who was caught in a car in rising floodwaters near Evandale, in Tasmania's north, but the search for her companion continues.

The search has also resumed for Trevor Foster, who is in his 80s and cannot be found.

This general aerial view shows flooding in North Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
This general aerial view shows flooding in North Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Photo: AFP

Police said 107 people had been rescued from flood-affected areas, and Commissioner Darren Hine urged people to stay away from floodwaters.

"We rescued over 100 people who have made poor decisions and put themselves into danger by entering flood waters," he said.

"We've rescued over 20 people with the helicopter, and again while were doing this, we can't do our other duties and takes away our resources where they may be needed to save lives."

Tasmania's State Emergency Service (SES) had shifted its focus to the South Esk River, the town of Longford and the Launceston suburb of Invermay.

People in the Launceston suburb of Invermay had been advised to evacuate their homes immediately.

Two evacuation centres were available at the Silverdome in Prospect and the University of Tasmania at Newnham.

While the South Esk had flooded, it was not expected to peak until tonight or Wednesday morning.

Worst of Queensland's wild weather over

The wild weather hit Queensland on Saturday and moved south over the weekend to New South Wales, where a search is continuing for a swimmer missing off Bondi Beach in Sydney.

A body had been found at Dover Heights in Sydney's east during the search for the missing man, but it hadn't been confirmed that he was the person whose body was found.
A man locals at the damage caused by a severe storm at Collaroy on Sydney's northern beaches.
A man looks at the damage at Collaroy on Sydney's northern beaches. Photo: AFP

Emergency services in NSW said it was too early to assess the damage after king tides peaked along the New South Wales east coast on Monday night.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the low pressure system was losing strength as it moved off the coast, but a large swell and king tides would raise the risk of flooding, beach erosion and coastal inundation in all coastal areas south of Port Macquarie.

For central areas of the coast, the threat of erosion was unlikely to be as high as Sunday night's event, as the wave heights would be lower, the bureau said.
The Bureau of Meteorology's Tony Yates said, while more rain was forecast, the worst had passed.

"There will be further rainfall today but no really significant falls, and there'll actually be some periods where it will ease off completely, so the worst of it has definitely passed," he said.

'This is a national disaster'

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff described the Tasmanian floods as a national disaster and the state government has offered emergency aid to those who have lost homes and belongings.

Residents watch the overflowing Parramatta river that submerged a ferry terminal in Sydney.
Residents watch the overflowing Parramatta river that submerged a ferry terminal in Sydney. Photo:AFP

Aid of up to $750 per family, $200 per adult and $100 per child would be made available through Service Tasmania.

"State and federal governments have to work together, this is a national disaster relief scenario, many lives will be shattered, it's devastating and still very dangerous," Mr Rockliff told 936 ABC Hobart.

The SES will be conducting a detailed impact assessment today.

Meanwhile, Premier Will Hodgman described the floods as catastrophic.

"It's certainly disastrous, this is an extreme weather event, the worst flooding we've experienced in this state in 40 years and it's likely to get worse - it's likely to cause further damage," he said.

The Insurance Council of Australia had declared the event a catastrophe and had established a taskforce.

Mr Rockliff said the floods had hit farmers particularly hard, with some losing hundreds of livestock.

"I've spoken to a number of farmers, vegetable processors and the situation is catastrophic for them," he said.

"There's been huge losses of stock, I'm aware of farmers who have lost 200 head of stock, dairy cattle and beef cattle, logs smashed through houses, irrigators a mangled mess, farms completely underwater."

There had been numerous reports of livestock being swept away by floodwaters but the full extent of stock losses was yet to be known.

One man at the flooded Horsehead Creek, near Devonport, shepherded several cows to safety using his stand-up paddleboard.

Dairy farmer faces devastating loss

Dairy farmer Paul Lambert from Mersey Lea, south of Latrobe, said he had lost at least 100 cows.

The floodwaters rose so quickly on Sunday night and Monday morning he was not able to get his 500 cows to higher ground.

"The cows stood up to their bellies in water but I don't know where they are now." he said.

"There's probably 100, if not more. Neighbours have lost more than that and there's a lot of damage, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage," he said.

"It's devastating. I watched some neighbours' cows go down the river yesterday.
"Just terribly sad, you can hear them bellowing and you can't do anything."

Five bodies found

On Monday, NSW Police said divers had retrieved two bodies from cars that were washed away in flood waters.

A man's body was found in his car on Anthony Road at Leppington, in south-western Sydney, while a 65-year-old man's body was found in a car in floodwaters at Bowral in the Southern Highlands.

The body of another man was recovered from a swollen river in Canberra.
NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Kyle Stewart said it was a tragedy to see deaths despite constant warnings about the dangers of entering flood waters.

"We simply do not know how either of these two men came to be in the floodwaters. But what we know is that their deaths show just how dangerous floodwaters are," he said.

The body of the woman found in Tasmania today and the body found in Sydney brought the total confirmed death toll to five.

Tasmania floods: Thousands told to evacuate as rivers rise in Launceston

8 June, 2016

Tasmania's second largest city, Launceston, is on high alert as floodwaters approach and residents evacuate low-lying areas ahead of a flood peak early on Wednesday morning.

Flood gates have been erected around Launceston including on the Charles Street Bridge. (Credit: ABC licensed) 

Tasmania's second largest city, Launceston, is on high alert as floodwaters approach and residents evacuate low-lying areas.

Major northern river systems have risen from record rain after a deadly deluge that has battered three states.

About 3,000 residents and 800 businesses have been advised to evacuate in the low-lying Launceston suburb of Invermay.

Police are also pleading with Tasmanians to be careful around floodwaters as the search continues for two missing men.

An elderly man is still missing from Ouse in the south, and the search continues for a man whose car was swept away by rising floodwaters at Evandale in the north.

A woman who was in the same car was rescued — one of 100 rescues in flood-affected zones. Of the rescues, 20 people were winched to safety by helicopter.

Her husband lost contact with her before being rescued off the roof of their property yesterday morning.

A flood evacuation centre has been set up at the Silverdome at Prospect and at the University of Tasmania at Newnham.

The Launceston Flood Authority is confident new flood levees finished last year will protect the city.

"We have constructed them to a one-in-200-year flood level; the predicted level from this flood is somewhere between the one-in-50, or one-in-100," general manager Andrew Fullard said.

"The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted the flood peak at 8:00am tomorrow [Wednesday] morning with a high tide at about 4:00am as well which will impact the levels."

Mhairi Revie from the SES said people should not be complacent.

"The levees are still levees and levees can fail," she said.

A flood siren at Invermay would sound if residents were in immediate danger.

"If they do hear the siren, absolutely that is time to leave and that will only occur with a decision that we want them to leave now and at that point we'll be doing other public information," she said.

At Longford, just to the south of Launceston, residents are being told to consider leaving as a precaution as the threat from floodwaters fed by the South Esk River continues to row.

Damage bill expected in the millions

In most areas the damage bill is still being calculated with farmers in particular expected to be hit hard.

Thousands of head of stock across the state have been lost and Premier Will Hodgman said the cost was expected to keep rising.
"There is no doubt that there will be an extraordinary cost and it is catastrophic," he said.
The Government has offered emergency aid for those who need it.

Major flood warnings continue for the Meander, South Esk and Macquarie Basins.
Dangerous conditions in the Mersey River have stranded hundreds of Spirit of Tasmania passengers in Devonport and Melbourne.

The TT-Line expects to resume sailings on Sunday and is negotiating to use ports at either Burnie or Bell Bay.

Danger not over as waters recede

More than 100 roads are closed across the state and many bridges are damaged.
The SES is advising people not to travel unless necessary.

In the south and north-west flood waters are starting to recede but police said the danger was not yet over.

At Latrobe, one of the worst hit areas, some residents have been returning home to assess the damage.

Some have lost everything and many said the warning came too late.

Resident Sam Cunningham is waiting on an insurance assessment to find out how much her family will be out of pocket.

"By the time we got woken up we opened the front door to see what the water was like, then we went up stairs and went up the back and we realised it was much worse," she said.

"It was actually coming from behind us and the water was rushing through the house. We just got the dogs and the kids and we left, we couldn't take everything."

Senior forecaster Glenn Perrin said some of those cleaning up in the state's north could experience minor flash flooding in the coming days.

"The next sort of danger period at this stage is late Wednesday into Thursday, so the rain ... may be locally about 20 or 30 millimetres," he said.

"Now that will be falling in the areas where we've had flooding issues."

Treatment plant outages prompt health warning

Health authorities are warning people risk illness from contact with flood waters, which may be contaminated with raw sewage.

Flood damage and power outages have also affected some water and sewerage treatment plants.

About 1,000 homes and businesses are expected to spend the night without power.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said federal authorities were in touch with Tasmanian counterparts and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged residents to exercise caution.

Amidst severe rains and unprecedented flooding a wooden bridge in central Tasmania, which survived the flooding, was destroyed by fire.
Forestry Tasmania said the fire appeared to have been deliberately lit and police are investigating.

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