The Australian defence force was not deployed after storms hit the Gold Coast because it was determined other agencies would be better suited to the clean-up task, according to the Queensland disaster coordinator.
Acting deputy commissioner, Shane Chelepy, told media on Monday afternoon that the state response to continued thunderstorms and flooding has been bolstered by 50 cleanup workers from a veteran-led not-for-profit, Disaster Relief Australia.
They were picked because they have the appropriate skills including working at heights, or with chainsaws, he said.
“When we request to the federal government, we request resources that we need with specific skill sets to undertake cleanup tasks that we require,” Chelepy said.
“It is up to the federal government to allocate those tasks to the appropriate agency; private contractor, defence, whoever they think provide the best skill sets to support us in our cleanup efforts.”
South-east Queensland was hit by a “dangerous” severe thunderstorm early on Monday morning. Upper Springbrook on the Gold Coast had already recorded 389mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday, while 276mm fell at Little Nerang Dam and 264mm at Hotham Creek, near Pimpama.
The Bureau of Meteorology is not expecting conditions to ease and a severe weather warning to be cancelled until Wednesday, senior meteorologist Miriam Bradbury said.
She said south-east Queensland residents should be wary of very intense localised rainfall, which can lead to flash flooding.
“It’s when we get so much rain in such a short space of time that it just it overwhelms our infrastructure, our drainage systems, our waterways,” she said.
“And that’s when we see those really dangerous flooding conditions developing.”
There is also a risk of dangerous thunderstorms across “much broader parts of central and eastern Queensland”.
A flood warning has been issued for the Nerang, Pimpama and Coomera rivers, where water levels are expected to continue rising with periods of intense rain.
Two evacuation centres – at Nerang Bicentennial Community Centre and Coomera Indoor Sports Centre – opened on Monday afternoon.
Gold Coast mayor, Tom Tate, urged residents to make a decision early about whether they needed to evacuate.
“If there’s any uncertainty about your house, and you live near a river, don’t wait for an evacuation call,” he said.
Chelepy said the state would make a further request for federal assistance.
“Yesterday, we had a conversation about the potential use of ADF generators to support our generation network. But working with Energy Queensland it was determined that the generator support we could get through ADF didn’t suit our network …” he said.
“So it really is about horses for courses.”
On Sunday, residents of Mount Tamborine confronted deputy premier, Cameron Dick, asking why the defence force had not been called in.
Emergency management minister, Nikki Boyd, said the SES had received about 4,000 calls for assistance since Christmas, 460 of them in past 24 hours.
Emergency crews conducted 10 swift water rescues on Monday . They also helped hundreds of people at caravan parks at Natural Bridge, Sarahbah and Thunderbird Park after they were threatened by rising waters.
With drains inundated, Boyd advised residents to be cautious.
“We know that rainfall throughout the region will mean heavy rise of water and potential flooding, putting communities at risk,” she said.
Damage to the electricity grid is so severe some homes may be waiting until 5 January for power, she said.
About 7,000 homes were without power on Monday, many of them since a deadly storm on Christmas Day.
Queensland power workers have been aided by 48 personnel from NSW and 88 from Victoria who have travelled north to help.
Police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said there had been two reports of looting at Mount Tamborine. No arrests had yet been made.
A spokesperson for the Gold Coast city council said crews were working across the city to manage safety issues caused by storm debris and significant rainfall.
“Please shelter in place if possible and help family, friends and neighbours if you can. Please avoid travel if possible and, if necessary, you can make sandbags at home using rubbish bags and dirt or soil,” she said.
Flash floods could also affect northern NSW, with residents in Lismore, Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah, Byron Bay, Casino and Kyogle told to stay informed about developing conditions.
– With Australian Associated Press