Floodwaters Crest Short Of Record In Brisbane

Floodwaters inundating Brisbane have crested, sparing Australia's third-largest city from what could have been more severe damage. More than a dozen people were killed and many more are missing.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And let's go next to Brisbane, Australia. If Americans saw that city on a map, they might say Brisbane. There's been massive flooding there, dozens of people are still missing and parts of the city remain under water. But authorities say flood waters crested overnight, sparing Australia's third largest city from what could have been even more severe damage. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is there.

ANTHONY KUHN: In one flooded Brisbane neighborhood, kayakers paddled past a gas station and a McDonald's restaurant up to its golden arches in coffee-colored water. In some places, lines of debris mark the high points from which the waters are now retreating. In the end, the high point was about three foot lower than the city's last big floods in 1974. Nearby, Nicki Churan(ph) and her colleagues are salvaging computers from the office of their building inspection company.

NICKI CHURAN: It's one of our offices and it's been entirely flooded on the lower level of the property. And we've discovered that it's got fuel from the automotive industrial properties that are around, submerged all at the back, which we believe is a fire hazard.

KUHN: Churan explains that the damage is not visible from the front.

CHURAN: It's come in from the rear, so these properties here are all partially flooded. It looks fine at our front, but our entire back is as deep as that Walsh Street sign. This is all at the back. It is all destroyed. It's just the other side that looks normal.

KUHN: Some residents tried to return to their homes but found them inaccessible. I ran into residents Campbell Easton and Christine Dickson as they searched for a way to get back to their apartment.

It's very frustrating not to be able to get back. It could take several days, right?

CAMPBELL EASTON: Yeah, we'd like a change of clothes and...

CHRISTINE DICKSON: Yeah, and an inhaler.

EASTON: Yeah, just that sort of stuff that we didn't really think about when we left.

KUHN: In all, some 35 Brisbane neighborhoods and suburbs were inundated. Nearly 120,000 buildings are without power. Economists estimate the floods could cause Brisbane around $6 billion worth of damage. The premier or governor of the state of Queensland, Anna Bligh, summed up the losses at a press briefing this morning.

ANNA BLIGH: Queensland is reeling this morning from the worst natural disaster in our history and possibly in the history of our nation. As we look across Queensland and see three-quarters of our state having experienced the devastation of raging flood waters, we now face a reconstruction task of post-war proportions.

KUHN: Some of the damage, Bligh point out, is symbolic, such as the destruction of the city's iconic riverside boardwalk

BLIGH: I don't think there's any more powerful symbol of what's happened to the modern city of Brisbane than the sight of our floating walkway drifting down the Brisbane River this morning. It's a loss that we will all experience.

KUHN: How fast Brisbane rebuilds will depend in part on the final two months of the rainy season. It will take days for dams around Brisbane will release water downstream to lower their levels. And the ground here is already too saturated to absorb much more water.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Brisbane.

INSKEEP: So that's the story in Australia. We're also following floods in Brazil. Hundreds of people have been killed there. Flood waters and landslides ravaged mountain towns outside Rio De Janeiro. And we still do not have a full picture of the damage because rescue workers are still reaching more remote villages.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.