Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Brisbane flood waters swallowing up a city

Car wrecks outside the town of Grantham in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011.
Car wrecks outside the town of Grantham in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011.
The streets of Dalby are still inundated with water from the Myall Creek on January 12, 2011 in Dalby, Australia.
The remains of a floating restaurant called Drift Cafe is swept down the Brisbane River Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, as floodwaters surge through Brisbane, Australia. At least 22 people have died and more than 40 are missing across Australia's northeastern state of Queensland since drenching rains that began in November sent swollen rivers spilling over their banks, flooding an area larger than France and Germany combined. (AP Photo/Ken Merrin)
An entire suburb is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Emergency sirens blared across Australia's third-largest city Wednesday as floodwaters that have torn a deadly path across the northeast poured into an empty downtown, swamping neighborhoods in what may be Brisbane's worst flooding in 100 years. (AP Photo)
An entire suburb is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
An entire suburb is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Emergency sirens blared across Australia's third-largest city Wednesday as floodwaters that have torn a deadly path across the northeast poured into an empty downtown, swamping neighborhoods in what may be Brisbane's worst flooding in 100 years. (AP Photo)
A car wrecks outside the town of Grantham in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The small town was hit by flash flooding causing mass destruction. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of Brisbane, the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
An entire small industry is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Emergency sirens blared across Australia's third-largest city Wednesday as floodwaters that have torn a deadly path across the northeast poured into an empty downtown, swamping neighborhoods in what may be Brisbane's worst flooding in 100 years. (AP Photo)
Car wrecks outside the town of Grantham in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The small town was hit by flash flooding causing mass destruction. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of Brisbane, the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
Vehicles swept away during flash flooding scatter the country side in South-East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of Brisbane, the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
Vehicles swept away during flash flooding scatter the country side in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of Brisbane, the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
The Holman street ferry is submerged by the water flowing down the Brisbane River, Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Car wrecks outside the town of Grantham in South East Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The small town was hit by flash flooding causing mass destruction. Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeastern Australia flowed onto the streets of Brisbane, the nation's third-largest city, forcing people to flee suburbs and skyscrapers. (AP Photo)
An entire suburb is submerged outside Ipswich, west of Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Emergency sirens blared across Australia's third-largest city Wednesday as floodwaters that have torn a deadly path across the northeast poured into an empty downtown, swamping neighborhoods in what may be Brisbane's worst flooding in 100 years. (AP Photo)
DALBY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 12: The streets of Dalby are still inundated with water from the Myall Creek on January 12, 2011 in Dalby, Australia. Twelve people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and many more are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 12: Pathways and businesses are flooded as the Brisbane river bursts its banks on January 12, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Twelve people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and many more are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
People cling to railings and metal fences on a flooded street in Toowoomba, Australia, Jan. 10, 2011.
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Brisbane river over flows onto Orleigh Park at West End on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Ten people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and 78 are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by David Hardenberg/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: A local on looks the brisbane River as it rises rapidly on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Ten people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and 78 are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by David Hardenberg/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Two young girls sit at a flooded bus stop beside the Brisbane River as it breaks its banks on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
TOOWOOMBA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: Debris and overturned cars are seen in central Toowoomba between 15:00 and 17:00 hours AEST following a flash flood which ripped through the town centre on January 10, 2011 in Toowoomba, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing. The Defense Force will today join the search and rescue mission as heavy rains are predicted to continue to inundate the region. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
Local residents move to higher ground as the Brisbane river burst its banks to cause widespread flooding in Brisbane, Australia, on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Queensland has been in the grip of its worst flooding for more than two weeks, after tropical downpours across a vast area of the state covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. Residents in low-lying regions of the state capital of Brisbane were urged to sandbag their homes and later told to move to higher ground. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Local resident move a boat to a safe place as the Brisbane river burst it's banks to cause widespread flooding in Brisbane, Australia, on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Queensland has been in the grip of its worst flooding for more than two weeks, after tropical downpours across a vast area of the state covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
People cling to railings and metal fences on a flooded street in Toowoomba, Australia, during a flash flood Monday, Jan. 10, 2011. Flash floods swept through the northeastern Australian community killing one woman, trapping others in cars and leaving some clinging to trees as relentless rains brought more misery to a region battling its worst flooding in decades. (AP Photo/ABC) AUSTRALIA OUT
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: A local on looks the the Brisbane River as it rises rapidly on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Ten people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and 78 are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by David Hardenberg/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Locals on look the Brisbane River at Oreigh Street at West End on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Ten people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and 78 are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by David Hardenberg/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Riverside at Eagle Street Pier alongside the Brisbane River brace for major flooding on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. Ten people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and 78 are reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by David Hardenberg/Getty Images)
OAKEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: A man wades through flooded streets on January 11, 2011 in Oakey, Australia. 10 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
OAKEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: A Fire & Rescue four-wheel-drive negotiates flooded streets on January 11, 2011 in Oakey, Australia. 10 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
OAKEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Residents are seen near homes surrounded by flood water on January 11, 2011 in Oakey, Australia. 10 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Riverside businesses at Eagle Street Pier alongside the Brisbane River brace for major flooding on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Business owners clear out their shops in preperation for high flood waters on January 11, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing after devastating floods inundated the region. Evacuations are underway in several towns and suburbs in and around Brisbane with residents and emergency services fearing the worst floods in over 35 years. (Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)
TOOWOOMBA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: A damaged building is seen in central Toowoomba between 15:00 and 17:00 hours AEST following a flash flood which ripped through the town centre on January 10, 2011 in Toowoomba, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing. The Defense Force will today join the search and rescue mission as heavy rains are predicted to continue to inundate the region. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)
TOOWOOMBA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: Debris and an overturned car is seen in central Toowoomba between 15:00 and 17:00 hours AEST following a flash flood which ripped through the town centre on January 10, 2011 in Toowoomba, Australia. 8 people so far have been confirmed dead in towns in the Lockyer Valley and over 70 are still reported missing. The Defense Force will today join the search and rescue mission as heavy rains are predicted to continue to inundate the region. (Photo by Dan Proud Photography/Getty Images)

The chilling sound of sirens filled the air in Australia's third-largest city today as floodwaters which have torn a deadly path across the north-east poured into an empty downtown, swamping neighbourhoods in Brisbane's worst flooding in 100 years.

The surging, muddy water reached the tops of traffic lights in some parts of Brisbane, and the city's mayor said at least 20,000 homes were in danger of being inundated.

At least 22 people have died and more than 50 are missing elsewhere in north-eastern Queensland since drenching rains that began in November sent swollen rivers spilling over their banks, inundating an area larger than France and Germany combined.

Brisbane, the state capital with a population of 2 million, is the latest city to face down the waters.

Today, Brisbane residents who had spent two days preparing, took cover on higher ground while others scrambled to move their prized possessions to the top floors of their homes. Some stacked furniture on their roof.

The Brisbane River is expected to reach its peak tomorrow, Mayor Campbell Newman said. The figures were constantly being revised as the threat became clearer - and it was getting consistently worse.

Australia's prolonged crisis escalated when a violent storm sent a 26ft (8m), fast-moving torrent - described as an "inland instant tsunami" - crashing through the city of Toowoomba and smaller towns to the west of Brisbane on Monday. Twelve people were killed in that flash flood, and 51 remain missing.



"This is a truly dire set of circumstances," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

The flooding has transfixed Australia and is shaping up to become the nation's most expensive disaster, with an estimated price tag of 5 billion dollars (£3.2 billion).

The relentless waters have shut down Queensland state's crucial coal industry and ruined crops across vast swaths of farmland.

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