Brisbane Residents Tell of Despair as Flood Leaves 'War Zone'
2011-01-13 13:00:01.1 GMT
By Jacob Greber
Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Nick Turnbull's two-story Brisbane
home sits three-quarters submerged in floodwaters swamping
riverside suburbs across Australia's third-biggest city.
"Stuff's everywhere -- kids' toys floating on brown, dirty
brackish water," the 38-year-old police detective said from the
suburb of Graceville, one of more than 60 Brisbane neighborhoods
inundated by the worst floods since 1974. "It's a real dengue-
fever breeding ground for mosquitoes. A good place to avoid."
Turnbull's family joins thousands preparing to clean up
after what Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh describes as a
disaster of "post-war proportions." About 30,000 homes and
businesses may need to be demolished or repaired after a surge
of water this week burst the banks of the Brisbane River, the
waterway slicing through the heart of the city.
At least 26 people are dead and 60 missing after six weeks
of floods left the coal- and sugar-producing state of Queensland
in the nation's northeast corner with a disaster area bigger
than Texas and California combined. About 70 towns and cities
have been affected, disrupting almost every state resident,
Bridges and arterial roads are cut off, more than 100,000
homes and businesses were without power, and public transport
remains hamstrung as the waters linger. The cost to the nation
may total as much as A$13 billion ($12.9 billion), or 1 percent
of gross domestic product, Stephen Walters, chief economist for
Australia at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Sydney, says.
Essam Al-Quraishi, 36, who moved his wife and seven-year-
old son from Baghdad four months ago, fled his ground-floor
apartment in the suburb of St Lucia two days ago. They've lost
all their possessions, he said from an evacuation center at the
Brisbane show grounds.
"My son came from the political chaos in Iraq," he said.
"He thought 'my misery will end' and now he is in shock."
More than 4,000 people are being housed in emergency
centers around Queensland. Many may need temporary accommodation
for months because houses and apartments that survived the
inundation may need to be demolished, authorities said.
Gary Hutton, 37, was caught in the floods after bringing
his wife from their rural home in northern New South Wales to a
Brisbane hospital where she gave birth to twins on Monday as the
"They told us to get out the hostel we were staying in,"
he said as two of his children, aged four and six, played
nearby. "We had no time to take anything."
Higher-lying areas of the city of 2 million people were
unaffected by the flooding, enjoying the second sunny day of the
year yesterday while riverside areas including parts of the
central business district lay submerged.
Stories of survival and tragedy emerged as the water
receded from towns battered to the west of Brisbane.
A 13-year-old boy trapped in a car with his family when the
water struck died with his mother after insisting his younger
brother be rescued first, the Brisbane Times reported. News
channels showed images of a family of three sitting on a car
roof drifting in a sea of brown water west of Brisbane; only the
mother and the child were rescued, Bligh told reporters.
A 24-year-old man died yesterday while checking his
father's inundated property in a Brisbane suburb when he was
sucked down a storm drain.
Residents used canoes, tin boats and other craft to paddle
around submerged houses, barely fitting under power lines.
Others began clearing away rubbish, muddy sludge and sodden
belongings from backyards, living rooms and store fronts.
Elsewhere, Australian humor showed as someone placed water
wings and a snorkeling mask on a bronze statue of Queensland
rugby league hero Wally Lewis, which stands in front of
waterlogged Suncorp Stadium football ground.
At 4 a.m. yesterday, the Brisbane City gauge peaked at 4.46
meters, the Bureau of Meteorology said on its website. That was
below the 1974 high of 5.45 meters and about a meter lower than
authorities had warned earlier this week.
In the floods of 36 years ago, 14 people drowned as some
were trapped in offices by rising waters. In the wake of that
deluge, much of Australia was sodden with vast inland areas
submerged for weeks and even months, destroying crops and
sparking disease outbreaks such as Murray Valley Encephalitis,
according to the weather bureau.
As waters receded, authorities remained concerned the town
of Goondiwindi in Queensland's south faces a record flood. Towns
in the north of neighboring New South Wales were also bracing
for rising waters.
Back in Graceville, Turnbull, who works in the Brisbane
police drug squad, was yesterday praising his fiancé, Kate
Johnson. A month ago, Johnson convinced him to buy flood
"Nature really has its own way of rearranging things," he
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--Editors: Malcolm Scott, Iain Wilson.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Jacob Greber in Brisbane at +61-2-9777-8635 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Lagerkranser at +852-2977-6626 or