Army moves in to rescue trapped Townsville residents after floodgates open in downpour disaster

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images A Townsville Resident is seen watching the raging floodwaters of the Ross River.

  • A record-breaking downpour from a monsoonal trough has flooded the Far North Queensland city of Townsville, forcing thousands from their homes.
  • The Ross River Dam floodgates fully opened last night after the dam hit almost 250% of its capacity, unleashing 1900 cubic metres of water per second.
  • There are weather warnings in place for a large part of Queensland as the weather system is expected to remain active this week.

Major flood warnings remain in place for a large swathe of Queensland which has been hit by record-breaking monsoonal rains that caused the emergency evacuation of the major regional city of Townsville last night.

The Ross River dam spillway gates opened fully last night, releasing approximately 1900 cubic metres per second of water out of the dam towards Townsville. The Bureau of Meteorology warned of “dangerous and high velocity flows” across Sunday and into Monday around the city, which has a population of around 180,000 people.

The danger remains today, with updated warnings from the Bureau warning this morning of flood risks across a vast area of Queensland and damaging winds of 100km/h in coastal areas.

The monsoonal trough causing the unprecedented rain event will remain active this week, according to forecasters.

The image below shows the warning area as of Monday morning. The full warning notice from the Bureau is available here.

Bureau of Meteorology

Townsville council said this morning that Australian defence force personnel were assisting with the evacuation of residents in some areas.

“15 small rigid hull inflatable boats (Zodiaks) are conducting evacuation of members of the community as fast as they can,” the council said on its website.

“Each boat holds a maximum of six people, and given the numbers requiring evacuation, the activity could take some time. The Defence members are working as hard and as quickly as they can to meet the need.”

@nicktrip18/ InstagramLocal MP Nick Dametto captured this photo of the floodgates opening.

Residents who are rescued are being moved to a temporary facility “in preparation for future movement to an evacuation centre,” the council said.

One of Townsville’s five evacuation shelters had filled to capacity and was unable to take any more people on Monday morning.

ABC reporter Josh Bavas posted this video of flooding in a Townsville car park last night.

People are being warned to stay out of floodwaters. There have been numerous crocodile sightings in the town, according to a report in the Townsville Bulletin.

This widely circulated photo was posted to Facebook last night showing what’s reported to be a large crocodile in the city.

The Bureau attributes the unprecedented rain event to a “vigorous, vigorous, slow-moving monsoon trough [that] lies across north Queensland.

“It currently extends from Ingham to Gregory Springs and into a deep, semi-stationary tropical low, situated about 200 kilometres north of Mount Isa,” the Bureau said.

“The monsoon trough may remain slow moving or drift shift slowly south over the next day or two. It will remain active this week, with further heavy and intense rainfall expected for already saturated catchments. The potential for SIGNIFICANT and DANGEROUS FLASH FLOODING will continue for areas between Ingham and Bowen, possibly extending as far south as Mackay during today or tomorrow.”

This story is developing…

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