Hundreds of thousands of cows drown after Australia sees a year's worth of rain in a week

‘It made you feel sick in the stomach,’ says Queensland premier who saw ‘sea of dead cattle’

Adam Forrest
Friday 08 February 2019 13:25 GMT
Timelapse shows rising floodwater submerging train line in Australia

Hundreds of thousands of cows are believed to have died in floods in northern Australia after the state of Queensland was hit by record rainfall.

A torrential downpour that lashed the coastal city of Townsville on Saturday and Sunday swept inland and flooded grazing land across the region this week.

The floodwaters are estimated to have killed up to 300,000 cattle worth up to $300m Australian dollars (£164m) to the country’s farming industry, according to Australian Associated Press.

Pictures posted on social media showed scores of cows trapped on patches of high ground surrounded by water, or lying dead in the mud.

Queensland cattle farmer Michael Bulley said he flew over his properties by helicopter and saw water stretching for miles in every direction. He estimated up to 60 per cent of his cattle had been killed by the flooding.

“It’s devastated the country ... there’s stock dead everywhere. Not just cattle, it’s sheep, kangaroos, wild pigs, they’ve all died and suffered from it.”

“We’ve had a year and a half of rainfall in about seven days,” Mr Bulley added.

Annastacia Palaszczu, the Premier of Queensland told Australia’s ABC News she had witnessed a “sea of dead cattle” when she toured one part of the flooded region.

“To see the cattle spread across these yards not moving, it made you feel sick in the stomach,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: “We are expecting hundreds of thousands in terms of stock losses. This will be heart-breaking to these communities that have been experiencing years of drought only to see that turn into a torrential inundation.”

Authorities plan to drop bales of hay for the surviving cattle stranded in flooded areas. Affected farms will be eligible to apply for grants of up to $25,000 Australian dollars (£13,700) as part of a disaster recovery fund.

Some surviving cows in flood-stricken area 

The weather bureau said a wide arc of the Queensland outback stretching for 250 miles from Mt. Isa to Richmond had been hit by flooding. The full scale of the disaster would not be known until the clouds cleared.

Two men died in Townsville and more than 1,100 people were evacuated earlier this week after authorities opened floodgates at the Ross River Dam when the rains filled reservoirs to overflowing.

The government of Queensland announced an inquiry into the flooding in Townsville following questions about why local authorities failed to predict the record rainfall.

Flooding in Townsville

Earlier this week the Mayor of Townsville Jenny Hill said the town had received “more than years’ worth of rain in seven days … It surpasses anything we have on record.”

A spokesman for global commodities trader Glencore said on Friday the monsoon had resulted in a “short term” production disruption at its Collinsville and Newlands coal operations in the state.

“Queensland desperately needed rain and now it’s had way too much in some areas,” said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness analyst at National Australia Bank.

“I just don’t think we have enough information at this stage to determine the scale of the stock losses and what benefit that part of the country can get from a bit of pasture,” he added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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