Children walk through flood waters near Redlynch in Cairns
Cyclone Jasper has dumped as much as a metre of rain on parts of Queensland in four days. Image by Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS
  • weather

Queensland facing days of life-threatening flash floods


December 17, 2023

Wild weather and life-threatening flooding in far north Queensland is not expected to ease for days as a 10-year-old girl fights for life after being struck by lightning in the state’s southeast.

Ex-tropical Cyclone Jasper is lashing the north of the state, with areas between Daintree and Ingham receiving more than 500mm of rain.

The Bureau of Meteorology said more than 20 rain gauges in the region had recorded more than a metre of rainfall, with water levels expected to break 1977 records.

An emergency flood warning was issued for Machans Beach, Holloways Beach and Yorkeys Knob on Sunday night, with residents urged to take shelter and not to expect emergency services to come to their door.

“Widespread flooding is happening now,” the Cairns Local Disaster Management Group alert said.

“It is not safe to leave.

“Your life is at risk.”

Premier Steven Miles said on Sunday the situation in north Queensland had the potential to get worse.

“There is a serious weather emergency playing out right now,” he said.

“There’s been a very high level of rainfall overnight and during today, and it’s likely to continue.”

TROPICAL CYCLONE JASPER
 Jasper could impact the top end of the NT, or double back and hit far north Queensland again. Image by Joshua Prieto/AAP PHOTOS 

Bureau meteorologist Laura Boekel said rivers and creeks were responding rapidly to further rainfall and urged people to stay up to date with evolving warnings.

“These are really high amounts of rainfall and they’re falling into catchments that are already saturated,” she said.

There was a “very high likelihood” conditions would not ease until Tuesday afternoon.

There have been multiple evacuations and rescues, mostly at Mossman, Douglas, Gordonvale and Innisfail, and livestock has been swept away.

No people have been reported missing in floodwaters.

A fallen tree
 More than 10,500 people had no power on Sunday, with parts of the state experiencing a heatwave. Image by Joshua Prieto/AAP PHOTOS 

Several low-lying homes have been impacted by floodwater, Deputy Police Commissioner and State Disaster Co-ordinator Shane Chelepy said.

Some residents climbed onto roofs to escape floodwaters and were forced to wait for rescue.

“It was too dangerous for us to rescue them at that point in time,” Mr Chelepy said.

Cairns airport shut down on Sunday after receiving 309mm of rainfall in 24 hours, with floodwaters predicted to exceed 3.8m.

Severe thunderstorms also lashed the state’s southeast across the weekend.

A 10-year-old girl was struck by lightning at a private property in Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast at 2.30pm on Saturday during a storm and was in a critical condition in hospital as of Sunday evening.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government was working with the Queensland government to ensure assistance was available to those who needed it.

Major arterial road the Bruce Highway was closed at 13 places between Cairns and Ingham on Sunday afternoon.

Homes, buildings, roads and bridges have been inundated while authorities also warned of landslides and the risk vital services such as power, water, sewerage and telephone services could be cut.

Residents and businesses in Cairns have been advised to use water for emergency purposes only as council’s treatment plants were offline due to flooding.

The flooded Barron River boat ramp
 Residents in flooded far north Queensland are bracing for more rain from ex-tropical cyclone Jasper. Image by Joshua Prieto/AAP PHOTOS 

Black Mountain in the Barron catchment received the highest total amount of rainfall in the period from 9am on Sunday with 652mm.

Major flood warnings have been issued for the Daintree, Mossman and Herbert rivers, Johnstone River Catchment and the Mulgrave, Russel and Tully rivers.

Jasper has reached the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria as a low after dumping heavy rain on parts of the state for five days.

The system is slowly moving west and could redevelop into a cyclone from Wednesday.