1974 Brisbane flood
In January 1974 a flood occurred in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia after three weeks of continual rain. The Brisbane River, which runs through the heart of the city, broke its banks and flooded the surrounding areas.
Victoria Bridge during flood
|Date||24 January - 31 January 1974|
|Property damage||A$980 million|
In total, there were 16 fatalities, 300 people injured, 8000 homes destroyed and an estimated A$980 million in damages.
|1||1,947||76.65||Peter 1979||Mount Bellenden Ker|||
|2||1,870||73.62||Rona–Frank 1999||Mount Bellenden Ker|||
|3||1,318||51.89||Wanda 1974||Mount Glorious|||
|5||1,082||42.60||Aivu 1989||Dalrymple Heights|||
|7||1,000||39.37||Justin 1997||Willis Island|||
|8||986||38.82||Debbie 2017||Clarke Range|||
It had been an exceptionally wet spring, and by the end of October most of southern Queensland's river systems were nearing capacity. Cyclone Wanda pushed the systems to the limit, and drew the monsoonal trough southward, providing the additional rainfall to the Brisbane River, Bremer River and Stanley River catchments to produce widespread and severe flooding. In the early morning of 25 January heavy rain began to fall on Brisbane. During a 36-hour period 642 mm of rain fell on the city. These torrential rains were caused by Wanda, a relatively weak tropical cyclone which did not even rate as a category 1 cyclone.
Continual, heavy rain had fallen for three weeks, leading up to the flood, which occurred on Sunday, 27 January 1974, during the Australia Day weekend. The floods peaked at 6.6 metres (22 ft) according to the Port Office gauge at high tide at 2:15 am on 29 January.:35 The peak flooding in the location of the city gauge was approximately 5.5 metres (18 ft).
Large areas were inundated, with at least 6,700 homes flooded. Around 13,000 buildings were affected by flooding in some way. Buildings in the Brisbane central business district were particularly hard hit.
The 67,320 tonne Robert Miller unmoored at Kangaroo Point and became adrift in the river. As the ship was 237 metres long and the river was about 255 metres wide, it was feared that the ship which was swinging around across the river would form a dam, causing the river to rise by a further 3 metres, causing even greater flooding in the suburbs. Two tugboats were needed to control the 15 m high and 239 m long oil tanker.:38 The Robert Miller was the largest ship ever built in Australia at the time.
Close to the city Ipswich, 1,800 premises were affected by flooding. The total damage in Brisbane and the surrounding areas was initially estimated at A$200 million,:8 but the final value was over A$980 million (1974 values), with $328 million made in insurance claims. While not as high as the floods in the 1800s this flood is considered to have been worse due to Brisbane's rapidly increasing population at the time.
The first flood related deaths were at 11:20pm on 24 January. Raymond Roy Davidson (29 years, from Wacol) and Hazel Dulcie Afflick (40 years) were killed in a head-on collision at Wacol, both drivers being blinded by gale-force winds and heavy rain.
An army amphibious LARC vehicle was carrying out excavation work at Bellbowrie when the vehicle hit submerged power lines which were still live. Two men, Corporal Neville Hourigan and Captain Ian Kerr of the Australian Army Reserve (then called the Citizens Military Force) were thrown from the vehicle. Bill Lickiss jumped into the water to save them. Hourigan died at the scene and Kerr's body was found after the flood had subsided. Lickiss was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.
In addition to those that drowned, Robert Adams (aged 56 years) died of a heart attack during an evacuation of a caravan park at Newmarket, and Aiden Sutton, a civilian working with the Queensland Police, aged 50 years, was found dead at home.
The flood was a defining event for a generation of Brisbane residents with 8,500 homes flooded in Brisbane and Ipswich, 6,000 of these could not be recovered.
The flood had massive economic implications due to loss of export infrastructure.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1974 Brisbane flood.|
- The "Big Wet", Bureau of Meteorology
- Known Floods in the Brisbane and Bremer River Basin, Bureau of Meteorology
- Flood map of Brisbane & suburbs / drawn and published at the Survey Office, Department of Lands, Brisbane, Feb. 1974 (Link via National Library of Australia)