Torrential rain, floods and storms in north Queensland have been declared a “catastrophe” by the Insurance Council of Australia.
Flooding in Ingham, where more than 200 homes were inundated, is easing as the wet weather pushes further north to Cairns while major flood warnings remained in place for the Herbert and Flinders rivers.
Moderate and minor flood warnings were in place for many other rivers in the region, which has been hammered by rough weather over the past four days, with more than 600mm of rain falling in some catchment areas.
ICA CEO Rob Whelan said the “catastrophe” declaration means insurers would now prioritise claims from people affected by floods and storm-related damage as disaster recovery specialists are deployed to the worst affected areas once roads re-open.
Innisfail residents have been warned to prepare to evacuate as river levels rise. Local resident Markeeta Harwood said her family “just got out in time”.
She told the ABC her family had been affected by Cyclone Yasi in 2011, and the family now wanted to relocate.
“It [Cyclone Yasi] was nerve-wracking and scary, but we lost 90 per cent of our gear in Yasi, and now we might have lost more gear with this [Innisfail] flood. But we’ll muddle through, we always do, we’ll get there,” she told the ABC.
Ms Harwood said the water rose very quickly.
“Myself and my hubby haven’t been asleep at all — it’s been a very long day and night and it’s going to be even longer today,” she said.
Meanwhile, a group of students on school camp at the Echo Creek adventure park near Tully remain trapped by flood waters and have received an emergency airdrop of food, clothing and medical supplies.
— ABC Brisbane (@abcbrisbane) March 9, 2018
The state government has already declared a disaster situation in the region.
The declaration gives emergency services the powers they need to respond effectively to the flood.
Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk, who will travel to flood-affected regions on Sunday, said the full extent of the damage would not be known for weeks.
She said flooding would have a detrimental impact on banana and sugar cane crops, as well as the aquaculture industry.
“We will get the full assessments over the next few weeks about the impact on the economy and I think everyone should spare a thought for the farmers who are going to feel a huge impact,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said one parent and one child had been evacuated from the school camp at Tully for pre-existing medical reasons, but that police had deemed it too risky to move anyone else.
She said the group was otherwise happy and healthy. ”No one else wanted to leave, they wanted to remain there,” she said.
“They’re in good spirits and we are in regular contact with them.”