Sunshine Coast kayaker missing as flooding forces residents to evacuate in the middle of the night


February 13, 2020 11:58:28

Police are searching for a missing kayaker and a woman who was last seen walking near waterfalls as torrential rain causes flooding in South East Queensland and the Western Downs.

Key points:

  • The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that flooding is possible in rivers across south-east Queensland
  • A number of swift-water rescues were carried out overnight
  • The BOM warns major flood levels are possible following heavy falls on the Western Downs

It comes after a terrifying night for 50 people forced to evacuate a unit complex and nursing home as floodwaters rose on the Sunshine Coast.

More than 230 millimetres of rain has fallen at the Sunshine Coast airport since 9:00am on Wednesday morning.

There have been widespread falls across South East Queensland overnight causing flash flooding and streams to rise.

While on the Western Downs authorities are surveying the damage after reports three homes were impacted by flooding overnight.

Rescue crews search for missing people

Swift water rescue crews are searching the Mary River at Conondale, west of Caloundra for a 75-year-old kayaker missing since Sunday morning.

The man was reported missing only yesterday by family after his sedan was found next to the river near Maleny-Kenilworth Road at Gregor Bridge.

Senior Constable Mark Muddiman said emergency crews held grave concerns for his welfare given the amount of time he has been missing and the amount of rainfall in the region in recent days.

“We’re mobilising our swift water rescue teams, SES flood boats, water police and we’re hoping to get Polair — the police chopper — up here to do a search of the river,” he said.

Mr Muddiman said authorities will search downstream along the banks of the river.

“We had over 200 millimetres of rain up here last night so we’ve got the Mary River at a pretty good flood level.

It’s believed the man was an experienced river kayaker.

A woman is also feared missing in an area of the Gold Coast hinterland drenched by more than 141 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours to 9:00am.

Yang Chen, 26, has not been seen since yesterday morning.

She had been walking near the Gorge Falls in Tallebudgera Valley

Her companion raised the alarm after he lost sight of her around 11:00am.

Police said creeks in the area were swollen by recent rains and were waiting for waters to recede so they can cross a flooded causeway on Tallebudgera Creek Road to continue the search that began yesterday afternoon.

‘Get your cars out, get your cars out’

Authorities made the decision to evacuate 40 residents from the ESTIA Nursing Home in Mt Coolum on the Sunshine Coast just before midnight following concerns about flooding and sewage issues.

The ABC understands they were taken to other facilities across the Coast.

Another 10 Coolum locals spent the morning in emergency accommodation after floodwaters threatened the structural integrity of their unit complex.

The group were evacuated from their homes just after 1:00am after water flooded the basement of the complex on the corner of David Low Way and Tanah St East.

Keith Symonds said he knew something was wrong when he saw the emergency service lights flashing outside his unit as he was about to go to bed.

“I realised the water was running down the road and woke everybody up,” he said.

Four residents lost their cars in the flooding.

“It was waist-deep in the garage by the time the last car came out,” Mr Symonds said.

Mr Symonds said he was bracing for a long wait for the building to be fixed.

“The power room is in the basement so the electricity went off once the power room filled up, so a number of people evacuated yesterday and all of us are going to have to go today until it’s repaired,” he said.

Kim Martin owns a unit on the top of the building and was awoken by her neighbour.

“We went to bed 12 o’clock, midnight, we heard banging on the door, my husband Terry went out to check … and it was Keith and he said ‘get your cars out, get your cars out’,” Ms Martinv said.

“I was in knee-deep water trying to get the car out but we got it out, but a few haven’t, which is sad.”

Ms Martin said residents in the lower units were taken to a motel.

“No-one was hurt but it’s a mess,” she said.

“It was scary because someone said, ‘oh, the building might collapse because of the sinkhole’ and things like that, but it was scary.”

Huntley Lavender-Webb said he was woken up overnight as water inundated the car park of his apartment block on the Sunshine Coast.

Cars washed off the road

A number of swift-water rescues were also carried out overnight, with most for cars which had been washed off the road between Buderim and Palmview.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) spoksman Tony Johnstone said there were 19 calls for help from motorists who drove into flood waters on the Sunshine Coast.

“Some of the situations range from people probably drove into flooded water … some people were just caught unaware about the water height,” he said.

More than 160 calls for assistance were made to State Emergency Service (SES) crews across the state, with most on the Sunshine Coast.

BOM said Coolum and Nambour recorded 133mm of rain in just two hours last night.

A minor flood warning has been issued for the Mooloolah River.

Elsewhere, there were reports of 76mm falling in an hour at Cooroy and the Sunshine Coast Airport had recorded more than 200mm since 9:00am yesterday, which is believed to be a record for February.

A flood watch is in place for south-east Queensland catchments between Bundaberg and the New South Wales border.

Chinchilla cops a drenching, could reach major flood level

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said there were reports three houses in Warra were impacted by flooding overnight but that authorities are still assessing how much damage has occurred.

“We certainly didn’t have to evacuate anyone there,” he said.

Cr McVeigh said the council had sent 100 staff to clean up in Jandowae.

On Wednesday afternoon, there was also an emergency flood warning in place for the residents of Warra, following major flooding of Jandowae Creek and Jimbour Plain.

Myall Creek at Dalby peaked on Wednesday, the second round of flooding for residents in less than a week.

“That crew has hit the ground running and the community is certainly active out there tidying up,” Cr McVeigh said.

“We’ll wait and see how the day pans out to see how much more resourcing is needed in Jandowae.”

Mayor McVeigh said the Local Disaster Management Group is closely monitoring the catchment around Chinchilla.

“There is a lot of water heading down the Condamine [River] itself … the bigger concern is Charley’s Creek,”

“We’re not expecting a huge impact on Chinchilla, though. We’ll obviously have some flooding around the region, but if it doesn’t come any higher than [a minor flood level] there we should not see much of an impact in Chinchilla,”

“We’ve taken a breath of fresh air this morning, it’s quite clear skies out here at the moment … we’re only expecting small showers across the region and that will give time for this water to get away.”

Flood warning current for upper Brisbane River

BOM hydrologist Sue Oates said meteorologists areo closely watching the upper Brisbane River catchment, with a moderate flood level in place from Wednesday.

“Generally, south-east Queensland is pretty saturated,” Ms Oates said, adding motorists needed to heed weather warnings.

“We’ve had this similar situation since about Wednesday last week, where we’ve seen heavy rainfalls across the areas of south-east Queensland from about Bundaberg out to Roma and down to the Queensland border.

“There is a lot of localised flooding, a lot of swollen creeks and rivers, and generally pretty saturated ground.

“It’s not a good time to be on the road.”





















First posted

February 13, 2020 06:10:28

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