donderdag 13 januari 2011

Clean up task may take many months

Flood-besieged Brisbane residents have been told to brace themselves for a long and arduous recovery that could take months, or even years, to complete.

The Queensland capital has begun counting the cost of the flood, which delivered a lower-than-expected but still devastating peak of 4.46 metres early on Thursday morning.

The flood cost at least one life in the capital, a 24-year-old man who was swept into a storm drain while inspecting his father's flooded property in Durack, just south of the city.

In total, more than 26,000 homes and 5000 businesses in 67 suburbs have been affected, more than 150 roads remain closed and the city remains in effective lockdown, with power and public transport still shaky.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman warned it could be a long time before Brisbane returns to normal, and has launched an all-in recovery campaign, calling on volunteers to help aid the clean-up.

'The clean-up effort, ultimately, will take many, many months,' he told reporters on the banks of the Brisbane River on Thursday.

'The reconstruction effort on people's homes is going to take much longer than that - that will take a year and a half to two years.

'But everyone can contribute in some way.

'A lot of help will be needed to return Brisbane to order.'

About 1025 people sought refuge at the city's evacuation centres, with the CBD, St Lucia, West End, Rocklea and Graceville among the worst hit areas.

Residents of Paddington, Rosalie, Auchenflower and Milton are in for the longest wait to return home, since waters will recede from those places last due to their downstream location.

In western Brisbane, people have already begun running out of food, with the council directing them to visit evacuation centres for additional supplies.

There are also fears of electrical problems in flooded homes, with electricians warning that safety inspections could take up to six months given the huge demand.

Some 103,000 people were still without power around southeast Queensland as of Thursday afternoon, but there are hopes that 70,000 will be reconnected by 10pm (AEST) on Friday.

Mr Newman was reluctant to put a figure on the damage and hinted there could still be more to come, amid predictions of a king tide hitting late next week.

'People need to be mindful that the wet season goes until March in this city, and we're only at mid-January.

'In the 1893 flood there were a number of flood peaks over about a two-and-a-half, three-week period.'

The council's priority was to open up roads, including the Ipswich Motorway and Coronation Drive. It is also offering $100 rebates to ratepayers and waiving traffic fines for 30 days.

City workers are unlikely to head back to the CBD until next week, where public transport remains on a skeleton schedule.

Mr Newman said it will take months to rebuild the devastated CityCat ferry system, with every terminal believed to have been destroyed.

Locals spent Thursday seizing on good-news stories, particularly the exploits of tug boat captain Doug Hislop, who was labelled a hero after steering a 300-tonne piece of debris clear of Brisbane's major bridge.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the skipper should be awarded an Order of Australia.

'I'll be the first one to sign their nomination form,' he told Sky News, while Queensland Premier Anna Bligh dubbed the vessel 'the little tug that could'.

Brisbane's iconic XXXX brewery has assured Queenslanders it won't let beer supplies run dry, despite going underwater overnight.

'The good news is the beer is kept in a warehouse at Hendra, which did not flood,' corporate affairs manager Leela Sutton said.

'We're looking at how to get products to flood-affected areas once the roads reopen, or possibly by boat.'

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