The capital of Queensland state resembled a muddy lake, with an entire waterfront cafe among the debris washing down the Brisbane River, a torrent that has flooded 12,000 homes in the city of 2 million and left 118,000 buildings without power.
With 35 suburbs flooded, many parts of Brisbane looked more like Venice as residents used boats to move about flooded streets, where traffic signs peeped above the stagnant water.
“It’s a swimming pool,” said Ian Parker as he walked in ankle-deep water through his house, which sits on stilts but looked like it was afloat.
Like many flood victims, Parker was stoical as he inspected his waterlogged home: “It’s a lot better than other people.”
Aerial views of Brisbane showed a sea of brown water littered with rooftops.
“What I’m seeing looks more like a war zone in some places,” Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said as dawn revealed the overnight devastation.
“All I could see was their rooftops … underneath every single one of those rooftops is a horror story,” she told reporters after surveying the disaster from the air.
“This morning as I look across not only the capital city, but three-quarters of my state, we are facing a reconstruction effort of post-war proportions,” Bligh said.
An emotional Bligh said her state, reliant on farming and mining in rugged outback regions, would recover regardless of the cost and estimates that three quarters — an area the size of South Africa — was now officially a disaster zone.
Officials warned of the real risk of further severe flooding in the coming weeks, with two months of the wet season ahead and already overflowing dams requiring seven days to empty to normal levels to cope with more heavy rains.
The Bureau of Meteorology said a monsoonal storm in the Coral Sea off Queensland’s north coast was expected to form into a cyclone in 24 to 48 hours, but while it would bring fresh rains to Queensland it was expected to move away from the coast.
Queensland has received so much rain in the past two months the ground is fully waterlogged and dams are full, meaning any more heavy rain will simply exacerbate already flooded rivers.
HOMES LOST IN BROWN FLOODS
The floods could cost insurers nearly $1 billion and some economists expect $6 billion in damage from the deluge that began last month in Queensland, crippling the coking coal industry and destroying roads, railways and bridges.
The deadly floods have killed at least 19 people and 61 are missing, according to revised figures. Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley region, west of Brisbane, have been completely devastated, with whole towns unrecognisable.
But the water peaked at almost a metre below the level of deadly 1974 floods in Brisbane. Authorities said a protective dam built after that tragedy had helped spare the city from the expected worst-case scenario this time. Reuters