21 May 2011

ABC News Online: Flood warning system under the spotlight

Flooded houses and swamped caravans at the Ipswich suburb of Goodna, west of Brisbane

More than 8,500 properties in the region were inundated when the Bremer River peaked. (User submitted - Geoff Swift)

The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry is questioning the warnings given to Ipswich residents before the region was swamped in January.

More than 8,500 properties in the region were inundated when the Bremer River peaked at 19 metres - the third largest flood in the city's history and only marginally lower than that reached in 1974.

Councillor Paul Tully has told today's Ipswich sitting of the inquiry that there were problems with evacuation warnings and the community was not kept informed of the developing situation.

The inquiry heard the council received more than 5,000 calls - four times the usual number.

The head of Ipswich Council's local disaster coordination centre, Anthony Trace, told the hearing an SMS warning was delayed, partly because of the time it took to get official approval.

Radio announcer David Greenwood told the hearing his station River 94.9 was bombarded with calls as the disaster unfolded from people who could not get through to the council's emergency call centre.

Cr Tully has called for the introduction of a special flood warning system in Queensland, similar to that used for cyclones or bushfires.

He told the inquiry many people do not understand flood warnings and a new alert system should be introduced.

He said, for example, the community seems to know what a category five cyclone is and suggested a similar scale should be introduced for floods.

Councillor Tully also called for police to be given jet skis or boats during floods to prevent looting in evacuated areas.

Police, local councillors and disaster victims were among those who gave evidence at today's hearing, with evacuation centres and road safety also coming under the spotlight.

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