Man missing in floodwaters, evacuation continues

Palmerston Highway damage in the aftermath of Cyclone Jasper. Photo: QFES

There are grave concerns for a missing 85-year-old man as the evacuation of a flood-hit far north Queensland town continues.

Almost 40 communities remain isolated by floodwaters in the wake of ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper, with emergency crews set to be airlifted in on Wednesday.

One of the worst hit is Wujal Wujal north of Cairns where 97 people have already been evacuated to Cooktown with more set to be relocated on Wednesday.

Nearby Degarra has also been devastated by flooding, compounding fears for an 85-year-old man who has been missing since Sunday at the tiny town.

“It’s devastating in that area, there’s been significant water come through,” Queensland Police’s Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy told reporters.

“While I still hold hope, I also hold grave concerns given what we have seen on the ground.”

Some areas have had two metres of rain over the past week, prompting hundreds to flee their homes or seek shelter on rooftops before being rescued.

The Australian Defence Force is assisting, sending two Chinook helicopters that are helping with the evacuation of Wujal Wujal that is set to be completed on Wednesday.

Deputy Commissioner Chelepy said another priority was ensuring Cooktown had enough supplies to cater for the new arrivals.

Emergency crews are also set to be airlifted in to assess damage and essential supplies required for the 35 isolated communities on Wednesday.

The clean-up has began north of Cairns, allowing the airport to be reopened just days after planes were submerged in floodwaters.

“We’re seeing it recede in a lot of areas, particularly the most populated areas in and around Cairns,” premier Steven Miles told ABC Radio.

“That’s allowing a lot of clean-up to happen. I landed at the (Cairns) airport last night and the runway was clear but we parked in mud.

“That’s an incredible feat in itself getting the airport up and running so quickly – that means that we can we can get a lot more people in here and on the ground.”

Mr Miles warned a big job lay ahead for a recovery coordinator who is set to be named on Wednesday along with additional hardship payments from the commonwealth.

“This recovery could take months,” said Mr Miles who is set to tour flood-hit areas with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Mr Miles said ensuring isolated communities had food, clean drinking water and health care was the priority on Wednesday.

The premier saluted the commonwealth and the ADF as well as the “tinnie army”, with more stories emerging of local heroes using boats and even a mustering helicopter to rescue people stranded in floodwaters.

“No doubt there’s going to be a lot of medals to hand out at the end of this,” he said.

Mr Miles defended the Bureau of Meteorology who have copped criticism for its forecasting and warning systems with people north of Cairns saying they received a major flood alert after they were isolated.

“No science can be perfect,” he said.

“It escalated very, very quickly and very, very suddenly.”

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt conceded warning systems would continue to be refined.