Linda Applbee at her flood-hit home in Cairns
Linda Applbee sits on flood-damaged furniture at her property in Cairns as the clean up continues. Image by Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS
  • disaster and accident

Renewed flood menace as cyclone carnage mounts

Laine Clark December 20, 2023

Floodwaters are bearing down on another far north Queensland community as the region reels from the aftermath of a devastating cyclone.

One week after Tropical Cyclone Jasper hit the Queensland coast, the far north is still feeling the impact with the remote town of Kowanyama in the firing line.

Heavy rainfall is expected for the Cape York peninsula in coming days as ex-cyclone Jasper lingers, with significant river level rises predicted for the 944-strong Kowanyama township.

Steven and Caroline Cheng
 The home of Steven and Caroline Cheng was hit by floodwater after cyclone Jasper. Image by Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS 

“Jasper is refusing to go away and its remnants are now causing issues for communities further up the peninsula,” Deputy Premier Cameron Dick said.

Kowanyama is “well and truly prepared” after stocking up on food and fuel with vulnerable residents evacuated, police said.

An evacuation was well under way at Wujal Wujal, north of Cairns.

A day after 97 people were transported to Cooktown, another 100 were expected to be relocated on Wednesday with two Australian Defence Force Chinook helicopters assisting.

Overall, 35 far north communities are isolated by floodwaters with emergency crews set to visit all of them by Wednesday to assess damage and assist supplies.

Cairns flooding.
 People cut off by floodwaters continue to be moved to safer parts of far north Queensland. Image by HANDOUT/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is due to join Queensland Premier Steven Miles in the flood-hit areas on Friday.

Mr Miles said it was a “miracle” there had been no loss of life.

But there are fears for an 85-year-old man who has been missing since Sunday at flood-hit Degarra, near Wujal Wujal.

“While I still hold hope, I also hold grave concerns given what we have seen on the ground,” Queensland Police’s Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said.

Mr Miles added: “Police have accessed his property but still not been able to locate him.”

Soldiers helping a resident to evacuate from Wujal Wujal
 Close to 100 people have been evacuated from the Wujal Wujal community, with more to follow. Image by HANDOUT/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE 

People have been urged to stay out of floodwaters with crocodiles sighted.

And there appears to be other dangers lurking – locals have been warned of suspected scammers posing as electricians as well as looters.

“There is nothing more loathsome, nothing less Queensland than looting,” Mr Miles said.

QFES Deputy Commissioner Mike Wassing has been named deputy state recovery coordinator, working with the Queensland Reconstruction Authority as the clean-up begins.

The recovery is under way north of Cairns with the airport reopening, allowing help to be flown in just days after planes were submerged in floodwaters.

Officers about to board an ADF Chinook to assist recovery efforts
 Two Chinook helicopters are being used to help with the evacuation of Wujal Wujal. Image by HANDOUT/QLD POLICE 

Mr Dick said roads were also reopening with crews on the ground set to restore power, supplies and water.

“Everyone wants and deserves a happy, safe and as normal a Christmas as possible,” he said. 

“There is a lot of work to be done to enable that to happen … I just ask residents in the far north to be patient.”

Initial damage assessments of the region have indicated one house has been destroyed and 57 severely damaged.

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the aim was to have power restored at every household by Christmas Eve after more than 40,000 were affected at one stage.

Premier Steven Miles speaks with resident Robyn Moody
 Queensland Premier Steven Miles with Robyn Moody at her Cairns home. Image by Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS 

But Mr Miles warned the recovery effort could take months, with a charity appeal and more state-federal government funding announced on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said rainfall and river levels had eased north of Cairns since Monday but there was still some minor flooding along the north tropical coast.

Jasper is expected to “meander around” the Gulf and move out to the Coral Sea early next week, with a low potential of intensifying back into a cyclone.