Flood Risk Newsletter

flood riskWhat is a Flood?

A general and temporary condition, of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas, from overflow of inland or tidal waters, from the unusual and rapid accumulation or run-off of surface waters from any source.

Flood Losses

Floods are estimated to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia. Every year in Australia, floods cause millions of dollars damage to buildings and critical infrastructure, such as roads and railways as well as to agricultural land and crops. They also disrupt business and affect the health of communities.

With the 2011 floods that hit the state of Queensland including its capital city, Brisbane. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities. At least seventy towns and over 200,000 people were affected.
Damage initially was estimated at around $1billion. The estimated reduction in Australia’s GDP is about $30 billion. The 2010–2011 floods killed 35 people in Queensland.

As at the end of January 2011, the Insurance Council of Australia calculated that 38,460 individual claims were lodged with insurers which were worth $1.51 billion. Nearly half of those claims were for damage to homes and more than half were made by those living in Brisbane. The price of food across Australia will go up. The floods will cost supermarket chains tens of millions of dollars. Some communities isolated by floodwaters experienced food shortages, and a rise in the cost of fruits and vegetables was reported shortly after. Food supplies to northern Queensland were disrupted requiring groceries to be transported to Townsville by ship.

Coal railway lines were closed and numerous mine sites flooded. According to an analyst at Macquarie Group, almost all the available stockpiles of coking coal in Queensland were exhausted in late January 2011 due to reduced rail capacity. About 15% of the state’s annual output of coal production was lost and by late March 2011 recovery was progressing slowly.

Between 1967 and 2005, the average direct annual cost of flooding has been estimated at $377 million (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, analysis of the Emergency Management Australia database). The losses due to flooding vary widely from year to year and are dependent on a number of factors such as the severity and its location. The most costly year for floods was 1974, when events resulted in a total cost of $2.9 billion (Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, 2001).

Flooding occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall when natural watercourses do not have the capacity to convey excess water. The floods following cyclone Wanda in Brisbane in January 1974 resulted in 16 deaths and 300 injuries, made 9,000 people homeless. An area which has not been flooded in the past is not excluded from possibly flooding in the future. However, floods are not always caused by heavy rainfall. They can result from other phenomenon, particularly in coastal areas where inundation can be caused by a storm

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surge associated with a tropical cyclone, a tsunami or a high tide coinciding with higher than normal river levels. Dam failure, triggered for example by an earthquake, will result in flooding of the downstream area, even in dry weather conditions.

Other factors which may contribute to flooding include and may vary over time from or due to development:-

  • Volume, spatial distribution, intensity and duration of rainfall over a catchment;
  • The capacity of the watercourse or stream network to convey runoff;
  • Catchment and weather conditions prior to a rainfall event;
  • Ground cover;
  • Topography;
  • Tidal influences

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