'Inland tsunami' kills eight in Queensland

'Inland tsunami' kills eight in Queensland
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Picture: Reuters

Picture: Reuters

At least eight people have died in the latest wave of flooding in Queensland - described as an "inland tsunami" - and dozens more are missing.Others are stranded on rooftops waiting for rescues that could not start before first light today.Queensland Premier Anna Bligh this morning said eight people had died in the Toowoomba area and another 11 were missing. She said wet weather was hampering the rescue efforts and the search for the 11 missing people.A woman and a boy were found dead in the Toowoomba CBD and a man and a boy were killed at nearby Murphys Creek after a massive body of water from weeks of heavy rain tore through Toowoomba, 125km west of Brisbane, on Monday afternoon.Ms Bligh said a further four people had died, bringing the total death toll to eight at this stage."We have a further 11 people confirmed missing and we have very grave fears about them," she told the Nine Network on Tuesday morning.The 11 came from four homes in Murphys Creek.Ms Bligh said the situation in the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley areas was very serious.Storm comingMore heavy rainfall and possible severe storms were expected in Toowoomba today.Helicopters that were sent into the Lockyer Valley to search for stranded residents were being held back by very heavy rain this morning."Right now we have every possible available resource deployed into this region to search for those people that we know are missing," Ms Bligh said."This is going to be I think a very grim day, particularly for the people in that region, and a desperate hour here in Queensland."'Like a cyclone had gone through'Nine Network reporter Cameron Price is at Grantham and told the ABC the town had been devastated."The town is like a cyclone has gone through it," he said. "There are houses that are completely collapsed, cars that are halfway up trees, homes a kilometre away from where they were."The terrible news from here is that they took the bodies of two small children from the waters, they are the fifth and sixth victims here so far."Toowoomba was unprepared for this event. The city of about 121,000 people sits about 700 metres above sea level, on the crest of the Great Dividing Range.Until last year it was gripped by a decade-long drought and was forced in 2009, when dam levels dropped to an all-time low of 7.7 per cent, to pump water from the Great Artesian Basin."Relatives and friends seeking information about people in these areas should call 1300 993 191 to make inquiries and register their details," Queensland police said in a statement on Tuesday.Bodies foundA woman and a boy were found dead in the Toowoomba CBD and a man and a boy were killed at nearby Murphys Creek after a massive body of water from weeks of heavy rain tore through Toowoomba, 125km west of Brisbane, yesterday.Ms Bligh said there were a large number of people clinging to rooftops in the Lockyer Valley, east of Toowoomba, but heavy fog had grounded the state's helicopters.Ms Bligh said 43 successful rooftop rescues had been made in the Withcott area.She described an "eight metre wall of water" flowing down the Lockyer Valley from Toowoomba. "This is without doubt our darkest hour in the past fortnight."Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson told reporters in Brisbane authorities would do all they could to rescue people overnight but he said he was not hopeful many rescues could be completed safely in the dark.Washed away in carsSix people are confirmed missing in the Lockyer Valley - three young pedestrians and another three people who were washed away in two cars.Another 30 people have sought refuge at a primary school in Grantham, also in the valley, but authorities say contact with them is virtually non-existent.Toowoomba Mayor Peter Taylor said there had been "unbelievable damage’’ to the city.‘‘It’s a real disaster scene where I’m standing at the moment in Russell St, Toowoomba. There’s furniture and furnishings and it’s just blown shops away.‘‘We have a railway line about 60 or 70 metres suspended in mid air and two cars that are virtually unrecognisable that have floated and smashed into the rail.’’The flood will move through the valley this morning and will head further east into the Brisbane River and into Ipswich and Brisbane within 36 hours.The Bureau of Meteorology modelling on how that will affect Brisbane was due to be completed before sunrise.The flood peaks are dropping as quickly as they came, but they're leaving a trail of destruction.House swept awayAt least one house was swept away and another was shifted on its foundations at Murphys Creek in the valley.Queensland Fire and Rescue Service commissioner Lee Johnson urged motorists to take care when confronted with flooded roads.“It only takes 15 centimetres of fast flowing water to sweep a person off their feet and into a flooded waterway. It only takes 60 centimetres of floodwater to push a four-wheel-drive," he said.“People underestimate the danger of these waters and tragically eleven lives have been lost since November 2010 as a result.“Every swift water rescue performed by fire personnel puts not only the victim's life but the lives of emergency services personnel who are forced to enter treacherous waterways at risk.”