Evacuations on as flood peaks in Brisbane

Jan. 12, 2011 at 5:59 PM
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BRISBANE, Australia, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Queensland police say Australia's Brisbane River is "at or near its peak" and predict it will recede over the weekend.

It is currently at 4.46 meters (14.63 feet), lower than a previous mark in 1974 when it peaked at 5.45 meters (17.88 feet) and its high-water level in 1893 when the river crested at 8.35 meters (27.40) feet, The (Brisbane) Courier-Mail said in a Thursday report.

"Hydrologists, they do believe it is at or near its peak currently," forecaster Brett Harrison of the Bureau of Meteorology said Thursday 5:30 a.m. local Brisbane time.

Authorities expected a 3 p.m. high tide, combined with the amount mass of water in the river would cause major flooding in the central business district but circumstances were helped by no rain falling in the city all day, the newspaper said.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman was cognizant of the flood's potential for further damage.

`"I'm feeling a sense of history. I am feeling a sense of horror and awe about the power of the river and I am just constantly thinking about the people whose livelihoods are going down that river in front of our eyes," Newman said.

Officials said as many as 40,000 private, commercial and public properties, and 50 Brisbane-area suburbs eventually will be affected by the flooding that has ravaged Queensland, The (Brisbane) Courier-Mail reported.

The Brisbane River was expected to climb to 14 feet above normal Wednesday before peaking at more than 17 feet above normal Thursday, weather officials said.

Few injuries were reported in Brisbane from the flooding that officials said was responsible for the confirmed deaths of 12 people as it swept through Queensland. The number of people missing was at 79.

The Brisbane River overflowed its banks at the Brisbane Corso in Yeerongpilly and at Indooroopilly, officials said. Water engulfed parks and low-lying streets, officials said.

The Brisbane River and Moreton Bay were closed to boat traffic and campers on Moreton Island have been evacuated to another resort, emergency personnel said.

Evacuation centers have been set up around the Brisbane area. Emergency officials said they received more than 32,000 calls for assistance overnight, the majority from Brisbane and Ipswich.

About 51,000 homes were without power, utility officials said.

Fifteen prisoners and four corrections officers from a women's prison were helping to fill sandbags at the Zillmere council depot, The Courier-Mail reported.

A Brisbane International Airport spokesman said it was operating on its usual schedule, but transportation to and from the airport was limited.

The airport took in more than 150 flood evacuees Tuesday after it was incorrectly listed as an evacuation center, the spokesman said. Even though the Brisbane Airport Corp. provided shelter for the people, the terminals weren't equipped with proper bedding, food or water supplies, the spokesman said.

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