Australian Residents Return Home After Flash Floods, Amid Warnings Of Another Storm


A baby's nursery furniture is strewn about in a flooded Rosslea home on Feb. 5.
Ian Hitchcock, Getty Images

A baby's nursery furniture is strewn about in a flooded Rosslea home on Feb. 5.

After days of devastating flooding that has ravaged a swath of suburbs in northeast Australia, more than 1,000 people who had been forced to evacuate are returning home amid new warnings of strong winds and another potential deluge.

Torrential rains began beating the coastal Queensland region over a week ago, inundating Townsville and surrounding communities under nearly 4 feet of water in the span of seven days. And as of Tuesday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology reported that monsoonal rains had dumped another nearly 12 inches overnight.

That prompted two new severe weather warnings from the Bureau for the coastal areas, including "damaging wind gusts in excess of 90 km/h" (about 50 mph) and also heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding.

The downpour could result in 4 to 8 inches of rain over 6 hours, according to forecasters. Meanwhile, less rainfall is expected to land farther inland, however, residents there have also been cautioned of potential flooding.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison donned army fatigues on an early visit Tuesday to one of a handful of evacuation centers where residents anxiously waited for the waters to recede.

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"It was frankly quite overwhelming," Morrison told the Associated Press following his tour. "I think people are in shock. I think the kids are amazingly resilient."

He also ventured out into flooded neighborhoods aboard what resembled a military tank, seeing first-hand the damage caused by the unprecedented storm. But, Morrison declined to connect the unusual torrent that has engulfed the area with the climate phenomenon.

"I'm not engaging in broader policy debates today," Morrison said.

In Aitkenvale, a suburb of Townsville, police on Tuesday found the bodies of two men who had been reported missing for more than a day, reported.

The men, in their 20s, had last been seen early Monday, after an alleged break in at a liquor store. Locals told police they feared the pair had been swept away in the flash flood. Their bodies were recovered near a storm drain.

Clayton Linning, who lives in a suburb called Idalia, was stricken by the condition of his home when he and his wife, Carmel, returned on Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Company reported.

"Just coming up the driveway, looking at all the mud, that's when it hit home," Linning said.

"It's probably what I expected — not worse — unfortunately not better," Linning's wife added, noting that the catastrophe has unified neighbors.

"It's an unfortunate way to have to build community but it does — it does connect people together, a situation like this," Linning said.

According to the ABC, State Emergency Service fielded more than 400 calls for help on Monday night, eventually ferrying dozens of residents to higher ground.

"Volunteer rescuers and the army have used small boats, tanks and trucks to evacuate residents in low-lying areas," the BBC reported.

Authorities are warning people that crocodiles, snakes and other wildlife have been displaced up by flood waters, and spotted in populated neighborhoods.

Video footage captured by a drone flying over the Burdekin River, west of Townsville, shows roads completely submerged under several feet of brown murky water with only the very tops of trees visible.

The Insurance Council of Australia estimates current property losses and damages have reached $45 million Australian dollars — about $32.5 million U.S. — from 3,500 claims. But the council expects the figures will rise as more claims are filed.

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