Australia:Sewage, blackouts, flies plague Rockhampton -PHOTO/VIDEO
Laaska News Jan.4,2011
By Josh Bavas(ABC).
The residents of Rockhampton are having to deal with raw sewage, swarms of mosquitoes, and power blackouts, as life goes on in the flooded city.
Life goes on: An SES crew on the outskirts of Rockhampton (User submitted: Jane Simmons)
The Bruce Highway to the north of the city is still open to traffic and Queensland Police say it might stay open until this evening before being cut by rising floodwaters.
Parts of the CBD are already under water and business owners are sandbagging streets one day before the Fitzroy River’s expected peak of 9.4 metres.
More than 500 homes have been evacuated, but as more areas are inundated some residents are still refusing to leave their homes.
The floodwaters are filled with sewage and debris and are expected to cut vital transport links to the city for up to two weeks.
The city’s airport has also been closed by the floods and the Australian Defence Force is deploying three Black Hawk helicopters to help fly food and other supplies into the city.
Barges are also being used to transport goods in and out of Rockhampton after an RAAF Hercules flew 15 pallet loads of supplies for the city into Mackay airport yesterday.
Swarms of mosquitoes and sand flies are making life uncomfortable for residents, and businesses in the CBD are beginning to lose power as authorities continue to shut down the electricity as a safety precaution.
Wendy White runs an alterations business in the city, about three blocks from where the river usually runs.
“It’s a case of, if we’ve got power, we’ll be able to trade and if not, we won’t be able to do anything until it all gets switched back on,” she said.
Ms White is splitting her time between protecting her nearby home and making sure the contents of her shop are not completely destroyed.
“In my shop we’ve taken everything about two foot up off the floor and then you’ve got, my machines are above that and then everything, all my stock is stacked on that,” she said.
“So it’d be a case of, if the water does come in, we’ll have to mop up before we can set up to start trading again.”
She says in the past two days the water has risen so quickly, it has caught many people off guard.
“The water was at the back gate and all our girls – we’ve got chickens and stuff – we evacuated them,” she said.
“So they’ve gone to my father-in-law’s at Yeppoon and today, we watched the water come systematically through the house and it’s nearly from Bolsover Lane, connected into Bolsover Street.”
On Rockhampton’s south side, streets which are usually lined with timber Queensland homes have become filled with raging torrents, with the murky water in some areas even reaching ceiling height.
But it has not stopped residents like Geoff Beechey from staying put in his two-storey home.
“I had trouble with my generator last night and this morning it kicked in again and it’s working fine,” he said.
“I’m a yachtie see, and when you live on a boat, you have to be prepared for that sort of thing. This is very similar.”
The floods have also made it hard for travellers returning home from summer holidays.
Rockhampton local Kristy Shaw and her husband took a week’s break at the Gold Coast, but it has proved difficult to get back.
“We drove up to the turn-off to go into Rocky and then we had to turn back because there’s road closures. And just by chance we were talking to someone at a servo and they said ‘Oh there’s a ferry running,’ so then we went back to Gladstone,” she said.
Ms Shaw says they had to return quickly to make sure their livestock on their cattle farm to the north of the city were kept out of harm’s way.
“I grew up down south where it flooded as well and knowing what happens when floodwaters come in it’s just, you’ve just got to start again, there’s nothing, you’ve just got to start again. It’s heart-breaking,” she said.
And with the flood peak still around 24 hours away, emergency services say the situation is going to get worse, especially for those in outlying communities.
A temporary air base for emergency service helicopters has been set up on Rockhampton’s northern outskirts.
Fire and Rescue spokesman John Fisher says their role is about to ramp up.
“The isolation of Rocky has really only just occurred in the last day or so, so therefore that level of resupply to individuals or to communities like Alton Downs really hasn’t quite commenced yet,” he said.
“We’re in preparation for that, we’re well prepared and planned for that.
“Really our job at the moment has been recce operations looking at damage and tracking the progress of the flood.”