BoM criticised for Queensland rain forecasts

The federal emergency management minister had defended the Bureau of Meteorology after it came under fire for its forecasting and warning systems about record rains in the wake of Cyclone Jasper.

Dec 20, 2023, updated Dec 20, 2023
Insurance premiums are increasing at pace with the slew of natural disasters to recently hit Australia. Photo: AAP

Insurance premiums are increasing at pace with the slew of natural disasters to recently hit Australia. Photo: AAP

Some areas have had 2000mm of rain over the past seven days.

Those in the Cairns suburb of Holloways Beach reported only receiving a major flood warning on Sunday morning after already being isolated.

The bureau also released a video update on Saturday morning suggesting the intensity of the rainfall was easing along the coast and dropped those areas out of its severe weather warning.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said meteorology was not a “perfect science” and pointed out warnings had been issued for days leading up to the event.

“The Bureau of Meteorology do the absolute best they can with the science they have available,” he said.

“I can’t think of another agency in the world that I’d rather be relying on to make decisions.”

But Watt conceded warning systems would continue to be refined after the major floods.

“If there are improvements that we can make around warning systems, then we’ll make those,” he said.

“But again, I’d ask people to remember that what we were dealing with was a highly unpredictable, unprecedented amount of rain into an area of Australia that knows how to deal with storms, cyclones and floods.”

Residents from the heavily flooded Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal were evacuated to nearby Cooktown on Tuesday, with another flight planned for Wednesday..

Watt said that meant about half the community of around 300 had been brought out, with others electing to stay.

“Yesterday really was on getting the vulnerable and the elderly out, and that’s been achieved. But we hope to evacuate more people through the course of the day,” he said.

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The Australian Defence Force has sent two Chinook helicopters from Townsville to help stranded residents, including some who were stuck on rooftops before getting to higher ground on Monday.

Evacuations are expected to continue into Wednesday.

Authorities have concerns for an 85-year-old man missing from Degarra since Monday, with extra police joining a search.

State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said there are grave concerns for the man’s safety after his home was destroyed by floodwaters.

“Our crews on the ground are working tirelessly to search through floodwaters and on land to locate this man who remains unaccounted for,” he said.

The federal government has triggered financial support payments for flood-affected communities.

People who live or work in Cairns, the Cassowary Coast, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale, Mareeba, the Tablelands, Wujal Wujal and Yarraabah local government areas can apply for a one-off payment of $1000 for each eligible adult and $400 for each child who have suffered a significant loss.

Applications will open on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Steven Miles travelling to Cairns on Thursday.

Watt said that in addition, people who couldn’t get to work due to flooding would get income support payments  at the jobseeker level for up to 13 weeks.


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