Eight dead and dozens missing as floods strike Australia again

Rescue workers in Queensland launched a desperate search this morning for 72 people missing after a flash flood likened to an "inland tsunami" devastated communities near Brisbane, claiming eight lives.

The rural town of Toowoomba, west of the state capital, bore the main brunt, with cars and pedestrians swept off the roads and people left clinging to trees and telephone poles after the wall of water smashed through. But many of the missing are from the nearby township of Grantham, where at least 50 people sought refuge in a primary school cut off by floodwaters.

The state premier, Anna Bligh, warned that Queensland was facing "our darkest hour of the last fortnight". She said yesterday: "This is going to be, I think, a very grim day, particularly for the people in that region, and a desperate hour here in Queensland. Mother Nature has unleashed something shocking on the Toowoomba region."

After ravaging the coastal city of Rockhampton and other parts of north Queensland, the floods are now inundating the south-east of the state, one of Australia's most densely populated areas. There were fears that the floodwaters, fed by torrential rain and rivers bursting their banks, would soon hit Brisbane, a city of two million people.

Amid more heavy rain yesterday, a "massive wall of water" hurtled through Toowoomba, 80 miles west of Brisbane, tossing cars into the air like toys and blowing out windows. A woman and two children were found dead in the town centre, and two women and a child were killed in Grantham, while a man and a boy died in the nearby township of Murphy's Creek. Speaking to Sky News after the waters subsided, the local federal MP, Ian Macfarlane, said: "We are seeing the water rushing in and blowing the windows out. Cars were just lifted up and went bobbing down the street."

Queensland's police commissioner, Bob Atkinson, said: "This has been a terrible day ... What hit Toowoomba could best be described as an inland tsunami, with a massive wall of water that's gone down through the Lockyer Valley."

Grantham, which was totally cut off, lies in the Lockyer Valley, between Brisbane and Toowoomba. The co-ordinator of Queensland's disaster efforts, Ian Stewart, said he had serious concerns about "potential extra loss of life" there, and about the number of homes damaged or destroyed. In another township, Withcott, police said nine people were missing.

In Toowoomba, some residents were still waiting to be plucked off rooftops this morning, after the search-and-rescue effort was abandoned overnight because of darkness and fog. Helicopter teams dispatched at first light were hampered by further downpours. Ms Bligh told the Nine Network: "Right now we have every possible available resource deployed into this region to search for those people that we know are missing."

Heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for most of today, and the bureau of meteorology warned there could be more flash flooding. Late last night, Ms Bligh said a 26ft wall of water was heading east towards Brisbane through low-lying communities. Residents of towns in its path were urged to move immediately to higher ground.

In Toowoomba, the floodwaters – which subsided almost as quickly as they arrived – burst into a furniture store, carrying away its contents. In some spots, cars were piled on top of each other. Some of those killed were found dead in their vehicles.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower