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Monday, June 27, 2022

Queensland floods: SES worker killed as death toll rises to four | Australia weather

Two people, including a State Emergency Services volunteer, have died after being swept away in floodwaters in Queensland overnight, as some parts of the state experience worse flooding than 2011.

It brings the death toll from the floods to four, and two people remain missing.

Queensland fire and emergency services commissioner Greg Leach said the volunteer died after the SES vehicle they were travelling in, as part of a crew of four, was swept off the road into floodwaters near Ipswich.

“Three of our members were rescued, one of those members is deceased,” Leach said. “We pass on our condolences to family, friends and loved ones.”

Leach said it was a “very sad day” for emergency services.

The Queensland emergency services minister, Mark Ryan, said SES volunteers routinely put the lives of others before their own.

“And this person was doing that last night,” Ryan said. “They were on their way to help people in need. So of course we remember that volunteer, we grieve that volunteer’s loss, but also we pay tribute to their service and their life.”

The body of another man was found in floodwaters at Stones Corner, south of Brisbane. State disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said the man’s death was still under investigation but there were no suspicious circumstances. “The indications are this person has been caught up in floodwater, but we’ll have to run our investigations,” Gollschewski said.

Gollschewski said it was a “dangerous environment”.

“In many instances people are still making poor choices about, one, being out and about in this weather, and two, what they do when they’re out there,” he said.

He urged people to stay home if they did not need to go out, and not to drive on flooded roads.

Flood levels at the Mary River in Gympie had already exceeded levels recorded in the 2011 and 2013 flood disasters, and were headed towards the levels not seen since 1999, when the Mary reached 21.95m.

The Noosa catchment was expected to reach flood levels not seen since 1992.

“It’s clear that we’re in the middle of what could be a season-defining rain event for south-east Queensland,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist David Grant said.

As of Saturday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology had issued six major flood watches for south-east Queensland, including for the lower Brisbane River, the Georgina River, the Logan River, the Mary River, the Upper Brisbane and Stanley Rivers, and the Molloolah, Noosa and Maroochy Rivers in the Noosa catchment.

A resident watches floodwaters from his house in Ipswich.
A resident watches floodwaters from his house in Ipswich. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

“Since many catchments are now saturated and in combination with this increased rainfall there is now going to be an increased risk of dangerous and life-threatening flash-flooding and even the potential for localised landslides due to how wet these catchments are,” Grant said.

Thunderstorms on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday were forecast to bring damaging winds, which combined with the saturated ground could cause trees to fall over.

South-east Queensland has received a week of heavy rain, with intense falls on Friday night that was expected to continue though Sunday. Mount Glorious, east of Brisbane, received 618mm in the 21 hours to 9am Saturday while Pomona near Noosa received 535mm and 786mm on Friday.

Brisbane received 206mm. It usually records just 150mm for the whole of February. “We’ve essentially had a month’s rain in 24 hours in Brisbane,” Grant said.

Grant said the rain system was slowly moving south and could worsen in to Sunday, before easing on Monday or Tuesday.

A resident at the One Mile Bridge in Ipswich.
A resident at the One Mile Bridge in Ipswich. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

The rain was forecast to move in to northern NSW, where the bureau has already issued flash flooding warnings with forecasts of between 100mm and 250mm falling in some areas of the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers.

An evacuation warning has been issued in the Northern Rivers for residents in low-lying areas of Maclean, where the Clarence River is expected to flood properties and cut off evacuation routes.

In Queensland, the SES received 1,800 calls for assistance overnight and conducted 132 swift water rescues. Some 253 people spent the night in evacuation centres, most of those in Gympie.

Gollschewski said police would not hesitate to fine people who drove through closed roads and into flood waters.

“If people do the wrong thing deliberately which we still see happening, ignoring signs, driving into water and getting themselves in trouble, but not only putting themselves at risk but putting at risk those that have to go rescue them,” he said.

“And as we’ve seen one our colleagues has lost their life trying to help people. So of course if we get the opportunity to take enforcement action we will.”

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