Body found, one person missing, as floods force evacuations

A body, believed to be that of a missing 75-year-old kayaker, has been found among debris in the flooded Mary River on the Sunshine Coast.


Feb 13, 2020, updated Feb 13, 2020
Flooded cars in a car park at Nambour Plaza. (Photo: Jonny Duncan)

Flooded cars in a car park at Nambour Plaza. (Photo: Jonny Duncan)

Authorities say it is too early to say whether the man drowned in floodwater or suffered a medical episode after setting out from Conondale on Sunday.

Police say the man was an experienced kayaker and was known to head out in the river when it was in flood.

Police are also searching for a woman who was last seen walking near waterfalls as torrential rain causes flooding in southeast Queensland and the Western Downs.

It comes after a terrifying night for 50 people forced to evacuate a unit complex and nursing home as floodwaters rose on the Sunshine Coast.

More than 230mm of rain has fallen at the Sunshine Coast airport since 9am on Wednesday morning.

There have been widespread falls across southeast Queensland overnight causing flash-flooding and streams to rise, while on the Western Downs authorities are surveying the damage after reports three homes were impacted by flooding overnight.

The pool of a unit complex is turned brown from floodwaters.

The Nirvana complex on the Sunshine Coast was flooded overnight. (Photo: ABC News: Kathy Sundstrom)

Rescue crews search for missing people

Swiftwater rescue crews had been searching the Mary River at Conondale, west of Caloundra for the 75-year-old kayaker. The man was reported missing only yesterday by family after his sedan was found next to the river near Maleny-Kenilworth Rd at Gregor Bridge.

Floodwaters at Mooloolah, brown water can be seen halfway up road signs.

Flooding at Neill Road Bridge at Mooloolah. (Photo: Facebook: Lukas Barry)

“We’re mobilising our swiftwater rescue teams, SES flood boats, water police and we’re hoping to get Polair — the police chopper — up here to do a search of the river,” said Senior Constable Mark Muddiman.

A woman is also feared missing in an area of the Gold Coast hinterland drenched by more than 141mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am.

Yang Chen, 26, has not been seen since yesterday morning.

She had been walking near the Gorge Falls in Tallebudgera Valley

Her companion raised the alarm after he lost sight of her around 11am.

Police said creeks in the area were swollen by recent rains and were waiting for waters to recede so they can cross a flooded causeway on Tallebudgera Creek Rd to continue the search that began yesterday afternoon.

‘Get your cars out, get your cars out’

Authorities made the decision to evacuate 40 residents from the ESTIA Nursing Home in Mt Coolum on the Sunshine Coast just before midnight following concerns about flooding and sewage issues.

The ABC understands they were taken to other facilities across the Coast.

Another 10 Coolum locals spent the morning in emergency accommodation after floodwaters threatened the structural integrity of their unit complex.

The group were evacuated from their homes just after 1am after water flooded the basement of the complex on the corner of David Low Way and Tanah St East.

A woman and a man - the man wearing a robe - stand by a flooded road

Keith Symonds (right) woke up his neighbours allowing some of them to move cars to higher ground. (Photo: ABC News: Kathy Sundstrom)

Keith Symonds said he knew something was wrong when he saw the emergency service lights flashing outside his unit as he was about to go to bed.

“I realised the water was running down the road and woke everybody up,” he said.

Four residents lost their cars in the flooding.

“It was waist-deep in the garage by the time the last car came out,” Symonds said.

Symonds said he was bracing for a long wait for the building to be fixed.

“The power room is in the basement so the electricity went off once the power room filled up, so a number of people evacuated yesterday and all of us are going to have to go today until it’s repaired,” he said.

Kim Martin owns a unit on the top of the building and was awoken by her neighbour.

Floodwaters on a turf farm spread onto a road, blocking one lane, a flood marker shows there is at least 10cm of water.

There was flooding at Roberts turf farm at Chevallum on the Sunshine Coast. (Photo: ABC News: Jennifer Nichols)

“We went to bed 12 o’clock, midnight, we heard banging on the door, my husband Terry went out to check … and it was Keith and he said ‘get your cars out, get your cars out’,” Martin said.

“I was in knee-deep water trying to get the car out but we got it out, but a few haven’t, which is sad.”

Martin said residents in the lower units were taken to a motel.

“No one was hurt but it’s a mess,” she said.

“It was scary because someone said, ‘oh, the building might collapse because of the sinkhole’ and things like that, but it was scary.”

Huntley Lavender-Webb said he was woken up overnight as water inundated the car park of his apartment block on the Sunshine Coast.

Cars washed off the road

Several swiftwater rescues were also carried out overnight, with most for cars which had been washed off the road between Buderim and Palmview.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) spokesman Tony Johnstone said there were 19 calls for help from motorists who drove into floodwaters on the Sunshine Coast.

“Some of the situations range from people probably drove into flooded water … some people were just caught unaware about the water height,” he said.

More than 160 calls for assistance were made to State Emergency Service (SES) crews across the state, with most on the Sunshine Coast.

Flood water in Dalby

The Queensland town of Dalby has been inundated with sustained rainfall, which has flooded parts of the town. (Photo: ABC News: Nathan Morris)

BOM said Coolum and Nambour recorded 133mm of rain in just two hours last night.

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A minor flood warning has been issued for the Mooloolah River.

Elsewhere, there were reports of 76mm falling in an hour at Cooroy and the Sunshine Coast Airport had recorded more than 200mm since 9am yesterday, which is believed to be a record for February.

A flood watch is in place for southeast Queensland catchments between Bundaberg and the New South Wales border.

Dalby resident Mike Grove

Dalby resident Mike Grove watched the river level climb over the back fence of his property. (Photo: ABC News: Nathan Morris)

Chinchilla cops a drenching, could reach major flood level

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said there were reports three houses in Warra were impacted by flooding overnight but that authorities are still assessing how much damage has occurred.

“We certainly didn’t have to evacuate anyone there,” he said.

McVeigh said the council had sent 100 staff to clean up in Jandowae.

The Jandowae floods in the Western Downs in Qld.

The town of Jandowae, in the Western Downs, was flooded on Wednesday. (Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency)

On Wednesday afternoon, there was also an emergency flood warning in place for the residents of Warra, following major flooding of Jandowae Creek and Jimbour Plain.

Myall Creek at Dalby peaked on Wednesday, the second round of flooding for residents in less than a week.

“That crew has hit the ground running and the community is certainly active out there tidying up,” McVeigh said.

“We’ll wait and see how the day pans out to see how much more resourcing is needed in Jandowae.”

Mayor McVeigh said the Local Disaster Management Group is closely monitoring the catchment around Chinchilla.

“There is a lot of water heading down the Condamine [River] itself … the bigger concern is Charley’s Creek,”

“We’re not expecting a huge impact on Chinchilla, though. We’ll obviously have some flooding around the region, but if it doesn’t come any higher than [a minor flood level] there we should not see much of an impact in Chinchilla,”

“We’ve taken a breath of fresh air this morning, it’s quite clear skies out here at the moment … we’re only expecting small showers across the region and that will give time for this water to get away.”

Flood warning current for upper Brisbane River

BOM hydrologist Sue Oates said meteorologists are closely watching the upper Brisbane River catchment, with a moderate flood level in place from Wednesday.

“Generally, southeast Queensland is pretty saturated,” Oates said, adding motorists needed to heed weather warnings.

“We’ve had this similar situation since about Wednesday last week, where we’ve seen heavy rainfalls across the areas of south-east Queensland from about Bundaberg out to Roma and down to the Queensland border.

“There is a lot of localised flooding, a lot of swollen creeks and rivers, and generally pretty saturated ground.

“It’s not a good time to be on the road.”

– ABC / © 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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