June 13, 2024

Communities isolated and inundated by flood waters in far north Queensland are running out of supplies and “desperate” for military intervention, says the mayor of the Douglas shire, as the severe flooding emergency continued to unfold on Monday.

Numerous towns, from Cooktown to Innisfail, have become isolated by flood waters, with all major state roads and rail in the region cut. Cairns residents have been asked only to use water for emergency purposes.

Hundreds of residents have required evacuation and Cairns airport remains closed after more than 2 metres of rain fell in less than a week in some towns, with more forecast on Monday.

Authorities said they were planning to evacuate the entire Indigenous community of Wujal Wujal, while nine people remained stranded on rooftops in the nearby communities of Bloomfield and Degarra.

Crocodiles have been spotted in flood waters from Ingham to Wujal Wujal, where another nine people, including a young boy, were stranded overnight on the roof of the health clinic, before being able to evacuate.

The Daintree River exceeded previous 120-year-old flood records by more than 2 metres on Monday.

The Queensland premier, Steven Miles, told north Queensland residents on Monday the government was doing all it can amid ongoing difficult conditions.

“We know you’ve had a tough night … We have heroes on the ground who have been out all night. We deployed literally every boat we could get our hands on in Cairns to evacuate those who couldn’t safely evacuate themselves. And more help is on the way,” he said.

But the Douglas shire council mayor, Michael Kerr, said the community around Mossman was “desperate” for immediate military aid, with many residents lacking power and water and in need of urgent evacuation.

“We do not have resources to deal with it,” he said.

“We have got … chemo patients, we have got newborn babies without nappies and food, we cannot get to them.

“We are desperate for military intervention to sort this situation out. We’ve had communities with no water for nearly 24 hours. We’ve got other areas who have no power or communications now for four or five days.”

Kerr said “we need to get resupply and evacuation happening”.

A car crosses a bridge over a swollen Barron River in Cairns.
A car crosses a bridge over a swollen Barron River in Cairns. Photograph: Brent Paterson/Reuters

He said they had received no warning of Sunday’s floods from the Bureau of Meteorology and had no estimate of the number of people cut off in parts of the shire because council workers can’t get to them.

“This is just a mess. The military should have been all the way through here yesterday. We need help now,” Kerr said.

The state disaster coordinator and deputy police commissioner, Shane Chelepy, said authorities were “working hard to resupply food, water and reconnect power as quickly as possible”.

“We have a number of isolated communities from Cooktown all the way down to Innisfail to reach,” he said.

“We have additional ADF resources coming in today … I have been assured that three additional rescue helicopters will be located into Cairns today.

“This is critical support but can I say to this point in time, we have not been able to put aerial resources in the air [due to the conditions].”

The Australian Defence Force will also fly extra emergency and police personnel to Cairns to assist.

The flooded Hotel Euramo, near Mission Beach 150km south of Cairns.
The flooded Hotel Euramo, near Mission Beach 150km south of Cairns. Photograph: Tori England

On Sunday night, 300 people were rescued in what was an “extraordinarily challenging evening”, the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said. The rescues were done with the help of the State Emergency Service, police, civilian assistance, fire and emergency services, and naval support, mostly Machans Beach, Yorkeys Knob and Holloways Beach. More than 300 triple-zero calls were made.

More than 1,000 residents sought assistance from the SES, while Fire and Rescue swift-water rescuers responded to more than 370 callouts during that time.

There were 15,000 people still without power on Monday morning.

The water supply in Cairns’ reservoirs has reached a critical level, with water treatment plants offline due to flooding.

“Emergency use is drinking only. Try not to, unfortunately, flush your toilets. Grab some rain from outside to flush the toilet if need be,” the Cairns mayor, Terry James, said.

North Queensland floods: drone vision shows Smithfield, near Cairns, under water – video

Cairns airport will remain closed all of Monday after being forced to shut on Sunday due to record water levels inundating the aerodrome.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Monday morning issued another severe weather warning for heavy and locally intense rainfall in the areas north of Cairns, which have already seen record-breaking flooding.

Areas from Hope Vale to Port Douglas have been warned there is potential for six-hourly totals of up to 300mm in rainfall.

Further south, rain has cleared in Cairns although more showers were expected throughout the day.

Some towns have recorded more than 2 metres of rain in the past week, which is more than the average annual rainfall in Cairns.


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