Hammered north Queensland declared a 'catastrophe'

SES assisting residents in the flooded Shire of Hinchinbrook. Photo: Facebook – Kylee Blanch Courtesy: Brisbane Times

Disaster assistance has been made available to help flood-affected north Queensland residents recover from what has been declared a ‘catastrophe’.

The region has been hammered by rough weather over the past four days, with more than 600mm of rain falling in some areas. 

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.

On Saturday, disaster assistance was made available for the local government areas of Hinchinbrook, Mareeba, Cassowary Coast and Yarrabah.

Law Enforcement and Cyber Security minister Angus Taylor said the money, made available through the Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, would support response operations, repair flood-damaged assets and assist heavily impacted communities.

“The north of Queensland has again faced heavy rainfall and flooding. A number of residential properties and businesses have been flooded and several communities have been isolated,” he said.

“The assistance announced today is designed to help those affected get back on their feet and speed up the recovery process for the community,” Mr Taylor said.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared a “catastrophe” in north Queensland, especially the Cassowary Coast and Hinchbrook regions.

ICA CEO Rob Whelan said the “catastrophe” declaration means insurers would now prioritise claims from people affected by floods and storm-related damage.

Disaster recovery specialists will be deployed to the worst-affected areas once roads reopened, while policyholders needing help can contact the ICA’s disaster hotline on 1800 734 621.

One third of Queensland’s council areas have been affected by floodwaters as school students remain stranded at a camp in north Queensland.

Near Tully, 71 year 6 students are being cared for by eight staff after they were flooded in at Echo Creek Adventure Camp. 

Police said a helicopter managed to drop off “sufficient supplies and medical equipment” to the site and evacuate one child and one parent due to “pre-existing health reasons” during a break in the weather on Friday.

State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said the risk was too great to remove the remaining children and adults from the area at this time.

About 8am Saturday, the Willows State School principal Helen McCullough confirmed the students and staff were being kept safe, well fed and dry.

“Happy to report that I have been in contact early this morning and the skies are clearer and camp activities are planned for the day,” Ms McCullough said.