News > Brisbane become a ghost town
The centre of Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland and, with a population of two million, the third largest city in Australia, has become a ghost town. With floodwaters from the River Brisbane that runs through the town rapidly rising, most of the city's populace has fled to higher ground, carrying whatever valuable possessions they can salvage.
More than 30 suburbs are also inundated, with water pouring from the overloaded Wivenhoe Dam, which was built to protect the city following a major flood in 1974 but has proved inadequate in the face of the relentless rain.
Queensland state premier Anna Bligh said she expected about 19,700 homes to be flooded at the river's peak, affecting up to 45,000 people. The surging waters are expected to reach a peak of 5.5m.
The floods are an economic disaster for the region, with the city's port closed, the valuable coal industry at a standstill and hundreds of business premises destroyed. Raw sewage is spilling into the water, and electricity has been cut off.
This year's extraordinary rain – last December was the wettest on record for Queensland – has been attributed to an unusually strong La Niña cycle. "This is one of the strongest La Niña events in the past half century," Bill Patzert, a climatologist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the Guardian newspaper. "Impacts include heavy rains and flooding, which has damaged crops and flooded mines in Australia and Asia. It also has resulted in flooding in northern South America and drought conditions in Argentina. This powerful little lady is spreading her curses and blessings across the planet. She's the real deal."