By Ellen Lutton and Anne Tarasov
27 January 2013
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Several areas of Queensland have been declared disaster zones after five tornadoes ripped through the Bundaberg region on Saturday afternoon.
The Premier, Campbell Newman, made the declarations as Gladstone began mass evacuations in the face of unprecedented rain expected over the next 24 hours.
All beaches from Tannum Sands, on the central Queensland coast, south to the NSW border are closed.
The tornadoes injured 17 people and damaged 150 properties.
Queensland Police warned of quick rising water in the Baffle Creek catchment, about 80 kilometres north of Bundaberg last night, with Mimdale identified as a major flooding risk. […]
In Gladstone, about 2000 were set to evacuate on Saturday afternoon. A major flood emergency warning was issued by the SES for Winfield, as Baffle Creek was expected to rise above the 1971 record. Warnings were also issued for the Calliope, Kolan, and Boyne rivers with the latter expected to swell to one-in-100-year levels.
Meanwhile, Brisbane was on standby on Saturday for its worst flooding since the disaster of 2011. [more]
Burnett Heads and nearby Bargara were declared disaster areas after twisters ripped through the coastal townships from 1pm AEST on Saturday, injuring a total of 17 people and damaging more than 150 homes.
Two people were critically injured when a giant pine fell on their parked car on the Esplanade at Bargara, while two homes were completely destroyed in the mini-cyclone that struck Burnett Heads.
Authorities said Burnett Heads was again struck by the latest in the series of twisters, which hit the area at 6pm AEST and 6.30pm.
Two people were believed to have been injured in the second onslaught, with powerlines down and at least one roof torn from a home.
And the Bureau of Meteorology says the worst may be yet to come.
It has forecast the ‘‘strong possibility’’ of further tornado activity around Burnett Heads, Wide Bay and at Maryborough, south of Bundaberg.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said powerlines were down in Burnett Heads and several buildings had lost their roofs.
Emergency services said the Bargara and Burnett Heads twisters had cut a ‘‘swathe of damage’’.
Power companies said it could take up to two days to restore electricity to the towns that were hit.
Bargara resident Judith McNamara, who witnessed the tornado through her kitchen window, said it left a car in her yard with a tree through it.
‘‘All of a sudden … I looked up and a tree went flying through the air … and the car went up,’’ she told ABC radio. […]
As of 7.30pm, residents in Bundaberg were being warned by Queensland police to stay indoors and shelter well clear of windows, doors and skylights as fierce storms continued to rage outside.
Meanwhile, residents in the small community of Winfield, north of Bundaberg, were issued an emergency notice and told to head to higher ground, with flooding imminent.
The State Emergency Service was warning that nearby Baffle Creek was expected to rise above record levels set in 1971.
Bundaberg district disaster co-ordinator superintendent Rowan Bond said the rain at Winfield was “unprecedented”.
“Baffle Creek is higher than virtually anyone can remember,” he told ABC TV. [more]