The city of Townsville in North Queensland has been hit with calamitous flooding with a years' worth of rainfall coming in just nine days.
Much of the city is inaccessible due to the widespread floods, which have left major intersections completely underwater. Authorities are warning that rains may continue until the weekend.
A monsoon trough and a tropical law have combined to produce the extreme conditions. The system is stationary, so rainfall will continue to be concentrated on areas which are already heavily flooded.
The city of Townsville, which is located in North Queensland and has a population of around 170,000, normally has a pronounced wet season but this level of rainfall is unprecedented.
Members of Australia’s military have been deployed to the stricken region. Travelling in amphibious cargo vehicles, they are assisting with emergency evacuations and delivering tens of thousands of sandbags.
QUEENSLAND: Crocodiles and snakes have been spotted in the flooded streets of Townsville. Alina https://t.co/AQ89mb7ham
— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) February 4, 2019
Thousands have been impacted by the floods and conditions may yet get worse
Authorities are searching for two young men, Hughie Morton and Troy Mathieson, who were seen swimming in a flood affected area.
Around 1,000 people have moved into emergency refuges, with some evacuation centres already at capacity.
In total, the floods have left up to 20,000 homes are at risk across the city. More than 16,000 homes were left without power.
Another Severe Weather Warning was issued for the region at 5.00 am local time this morning. “Areas of heavy rainfall with six-hourly totals between 150mm to 200mm are likely within the warning area during today and into Wednesday morning,” the warning says. It also states that some areas may see intense rainfall with totals up to 300mm possible.
The warning also predicts dangerous winds of up to 90 km/hour along the coastline. Townsville, Mackay, Bowen, Palm Island and the Whitsunday Island may all be impacted by the ongoing severe weather.
Drone vision of the Burdekin River in flood over Macrossan Bridge, west of #Townsville—taken by Charters Towers Regional Council. There are numerous warnings in effect around the region: Stay up to date https://t.co/CQJkcaE1rm. @QldFES #TownsvilleFloods #BigWet #QldFloods pic.twitter.com/O8SCmOuTcr
— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) February 4, 2019
Ross River Dam was forced to open its gates
Earlier, authorities said they were forced into opening the floodgates to the nearby Ross River Dam, which was at almost 250% capacity. The water released from the dam flooded around 2,000 homes.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland, said she had “never seen” floods so devastating. She said the dam floodgates had to be released “to make sure the water had somewhere to go”.
Palaszczuk warned against complacency and said the threat of flash flooding was still present.
“As we know there is still heavy rainfall across the area, this monsoonal trough doesn’t seem to want to move much at all,” she said.
— Allyson Horn (@allysonhorn) February 4, 2019
Schools closed across the region
Many local businesses have been forced to shut down and the Townsville airport is not operating.
At time of writing, 56 state schools in the area, along with 29 Catholic and independent schools, as well as 139 early childhood education facilities, remained closed.
The government also warned locals to beware of crocodiles and snakes, which have been seen in suburban areas since the floods hit. Queensland Police also warned locals that there may be human waste in the flood water.
Some locations in North Queensland have been hit with more than 1.5 metres (five feet) of rain over the last week. At Ingham, a small town 110 kilometres north of Townsville, a record 419mm of rain fell in a single day on 3 February.