Historic Australian flooding leaves 500 homes under water

More than 500 homes in Australia are underwater and thousands more face the risk of flooding as historic rains pour over the city of Townsville in Queensland. Photo by Dave Acree/EPA

Feb. 5 (UPI) — More than a week of heavy monsoonal rains in Australia caused historic flooding and left at least 500 homes underwater Monday with more rain expected in the coming days.

Up to 20,000 homes were at risk of being inundated by the rain as thousands of residents in the city of Townsville in Queensland lost power and were unable to travel amid roads cut off by floodwaters.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “In Queensland, of course, we’re used to seeing natural disasters, but Townsville has never seen the likes of this.”

Palaszczuk also warned residents not to be outside their homes or out on the roads if not necessary.

“We haven’t yet got to the peak … this monsoonal pressure will keep shifting, so we don’t know where it’s going to dump the water,” she said.

Authorities in the north Queensland city of Townsville opened the floodgates of the Ross River Dam on Sunday, deliberately flooding approximately 2,000 homes as the dam reached 247 percent capacity, The Guardian reported.

“Dangerous and high-velocity flows will occur in the Ross River Sunday night into Monday. Unprecedented areas of flooding will occur in Townsville,” authorities said.

The dam released more than 500,000 gallons of water a second after the floodgates were open, bringing it back to its standard capacity of 225 percent.

The Ross River reached its peak Monday morning and was expected to remain at that level through Tuesday.

Queensland’s environment minister, Leeanne Enoch, warned about the dangers of crocodiles and other reptiles after some residents reported seeing them in suburban areas.

“Crocodiles may be seen crossing roads and, when flooding recedes, crocodiles can turn up in unusual places, such as farm dams or waterholes where they have not been seen before,” Enoch said. “Similarly, snakes are very good swimmers, and they too may turn up unexpectedly.”

About 1,000 people were in evacuation shelters overnight Sunday as residents were warned to conserve water and schools were closed.

Palaszczuk also warned on Monday that flash-flooding remained a threat.

“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.


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