Minister leaps to defend BOM amid flood criticism

Storms hit, heatwave eases across eastern Australia

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

The Bureau of Meteorology is copping heat for its forecasting and warning systems as disaster payments open for flood-hit communities in far north Queensland.

It comes as fears grow for an 85-year-old man who has been missing since his home was destroyed in Degarra on Monday.

Some areas in far north Queensland have had 2000 millimetres of rain in the past seven days as ex-tropical cyclone Jasper leaves residents stranded.

Those in the Cairns suburb of Holloways Beach reported receiving a major flood warning on Sunday morning, only after already being isolated.

The bureau also released a video update on Saturday morning suggesting the intensity of the rainfall was easing along the coast and dropped those areas out of its severe weather warning.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said meteorology was not a “perfect science” and pointed out warnings had been issued for days leading up to the event.

“The Bureau of Meteorology do the absolute best they can with the science they have available,” he said on Tuesday.

“I can’t think of another agency in the world that I’d rather be relying on to make decisions.”

But Watt conceded warning systems would continue to be refined after the major floods.

“If there are improvements that we can make around warning systems, then we’ll make those,” he said.

“Again, I’d ask people to remember that what we were dealing with was a highly unpredictable, unprecedented amount of rain into an area of Australia that knows how to deal with storms, cyclones and floods.”

Residents from the heavily flooded Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal were evacuated to nearby Cooktown on Tuesday, with another flight planned for Wednesday.

Watt said that meant about half the community of about 300 had been brought out, with others electing to stay.

“Yesterday really was on getting the vulnerable and the elderly out, and that’s been achieved. But we hope to evacuate more people through the course of the day,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday morning.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said it was not yet known when they would be able to return to their homes.

“:We’ve got people on the ground in Wujul assessing the homes, the electricity network. That’s going to be one of the hardest things to get back up and running,” he said.

“Water, sewerage, as well as food and essentials for those who have stayed behind … it will be at least days before we can get people back in to Wujul. But those Chinooks have been a Godsend getting people out of there and into safety.”

The Australian Defence Force has sent two Chinook helicopters from Townsville to help stranded residents, including some who were stuck on rooftops before getting to higher ground on Monday.

Evacuations are expected to continue into Wednesday.

Extra police have also joined the search for the missing 85-year-old.

State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said there were grave concerns for the man’s safety after his home was destroyed by floodwaters.

“Our crews on the ground are working tirelessly to search through floodwaters and on land to locate this man who remains unaccounted for,” he said.

Miles said roads were beginning to reopen but 35 communities remained cut off.

“That means that there are a lot of roads damaged … very badly damaged … [What we’re] saying to drivers out and about right now is please still drive with care,” he said.

“The roads that are open have been checked. Many remain closed. Some are only open for emergency access.”

The federal government has triggered financial support payments for flood-affected communities.

People who live or work in Cairns, the Cassowary Coast, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale, Mareeba, the Tablelands, Wujal Wujal and Yarraabah local government areas can apply for a one-off payment of $1000 for each eligible adult and $400 for each child who have suffered a significant loss.

Applications will open on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Steven Miles travelling to Cairns on Thursday.

Watt said that in addition, people who couldn’t get to work due to flooding would get income support payments at the jobseeker level for up to 13 weeks.

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.