QUEENSLAND is suffering a disaster “of biblical proportions” that will set back its economic recovery, state Treasurer Andrew Fraser says.
Mr Fraser has warned Queenslanders there’ll be serious economic consequences from the worst flooding in the state’s recorded history.
“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” he told reporters in the flood-hit city of Bundaberg today.
The treasurer has been forced to delay delivering his mid-year Fiscal and Economic review so he can factor in enormous costs from the floods.
He’s warned of a double whammy, with the bottom line taking hits from huge clean-up, recovery and assistance costs and reduced royalties as the mining industry recovers.
The crisis that’s affected more than 200,000 people over an area bigger than France and Germany combined continued its march today.
Rads into Rockhampton are expected to be cut as early as today, and the central Queensland city’s airport will be closed to commercial flights just before 2pm (AEST).
Water is now creeping into low-lying parts of the community, prompting evacuations and police have the power to force people out if they refuse to go.
Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter has warned that about 40 per cent of the city could be affected when the Fitzroy River peaks at a forecast 9.4m on Wednesday.
But flooding is already being experienced, and authorities are working to empty parts of the low-lying community of Depot Hill, with Ergon Energy to cut power for safety reasons.
Mr Carter said power would be disconnected to about 130 properties today, with about 70 to follow tomorrow.
People simply could not remain in homes that would flood and where power would be cut, he said.
“This is a tragic circumstance that we’ve had to get to this level,” he told the ABC.
He said authorities would go door to door advising people they must leave. If it was necessary, police would force people to move.
Mr Carter said under the worst-case scenario, the airport could be closed for three weeks.
He urged people not to try to travel to Rockhampton with roads badly damaged and routes into the city expected to be cut during the weekend.
Inland, at the flood-stricken town of Emerald, it’s hoped a limited number of people might be able to return to their homes on Saturday afternoon after the Nogoa River receded slightly.
Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire said the river, which peaked at 16m, had dropped to 15.7m on Saturday morning.
He said that at best an aerial shot of the entire Central Highlands region showed 1000 homes had been inundated while another 3000 homes had been affected by water.
“There may be more homes affected, we don’t know,” he said, adding it would be months before life returned to normal.
Mr Fraser said families in some areas were beginning to return to their homes to find them uninhabitable.
“That’s a huge toll for them, a huge toll on them psychologically,” he told reporters.
He said the “silent problem” of heartache would continue for some time, with so many communities affected.