Crocodile warning issued as Australian city faces 'unprecedented' levels of flooding

Arturo Kim
February 5, 2019

A day of intense rainfall forced the local council to open the floodgates to Townsville's swollen Ross River Dam on Sunday, releasing nearly 2000 cubic metres of water per second downriver.

Australia's tropical north experiences heavy rains during the monsoon season at this time of the year, but the recent downpour has surged far above normal levels.

About 17,000 Townsville properties were without power overnight.

More than 20 suburbs were ordered to evacuate yesterday afternoon as authorities announced the dam - now at 250 per cent capacity - had automatically opened about 8pm Sunday and could stay open until 6am today.

Emergency crews have been stretched to the limit in flood-hit Townsville, with hundreds of people still waiting for help and evacuation centres filling up fast.

Apart from homes, schools and airports too have been inundated by the floodwaters, forcing hundreds of residents to leave their homes and bringing the crocodiles on to the streets.

More than 1000 calls for help were logged by the State Emergency Service and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in the past 24 hours, majority in Townsville.

9 News reported Monday that entire suburbs of Townsville were completely submerged.

Rain in the state of Queensland, where Townsville is located, has swollen the Ross River dam beyond its capacity.

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"What we're seeing in and around Townsville is absolutely devastating for the families and community but more help is on its way", he said.

Military personnel were delivering tens of thousands of sandbags to affected residents, as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszc-zuk warned residents to be careful. The BoM warned that risky "high velocity flows" were likely along the Ross River in the wake of the release.

"You think there can't possibly be any more to come but the rain just doesn't stop".

Risky and unpredictable conditions with the potential for more flash flooding are expected to continue for at least the next 24 hours.

"Small boats worked through the night to evacuate members of the community", an AFP report local commander Brigadier Scott Winter as saying.

Queensland state Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk told reporters Monday that more rain in Townsville and the surrounding area over the next two days could cause flash flooding.

He said: "The modelling says what it is going to say - it could move up to 10,000, 20,000 (homes)".

"It's basically not just a one-in-20-year event, it's a one-in-100-year event", she said. It added that the dam would release up to 1,900 cubic metres of water a second, a "dangerously high" amount.

Late on Monday, a severe weather warning remained in place from Ingham to Mackay, and west to Cloncurry, although lower than expected rainfall throughout Monday has eased conditions in Townsville.

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