Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Great Brisbane Flood of 1893

"Great sawn logs snatched from timber-yards and timber-getters, uprooted trees, tossing and tur ting; dead bullocks, dead sheep, dead horses; haystack after haystack, the half drowned family cat riding on the summit of one, a collection of bedraggled fowls on an- other, a pumpkin vine with a pumpkin at- tached adorning a third; sheds, panels of fencing, outhouses, whole houses, and snakes of all kinds colled on debris, all went floating and whirling past In cotinuous procession round bends, along reaches, away to the wide open bay and its beaches."
This is what Steele Rudd saw from his office window in February 1893.  The raging Brisbane river swept all before it.

After a long period of heavy rain, the river rose and almost 'washed away the city'.  The Indooroopilly Bridge, a strong structure which contained 1272 tonnes of iron, was destroyed.  Its designer, Mr Stanley, placed a loaded train on it and blocked the expansion rollers to prevent swaying but this was to no avail. This was not the only bridge that Brisbane lost in the flood.  Houses, barges, and other debris crashed into the Victoria Bridge which also went.

The business district was submerged. Queen Street was under water.  Businesses were devastated.  Whole suburbs were inundated.  Most of Auchenflower and Toowong were covered in water.  The water rose to the roof of Auchenflower Railway Station and the second level of the famous riverside Regatta Hotel.  People had to be rescued by boats.

The flood even devastated two storey buildings.  One large two storey house was actually lifted away by the force of the wind and rain which beat down on the city.  Telegraphic communication was cut and the ravaged city was practically isolated by the terrible flood.

Luckily, few deaths occurred,  The flood only caused eleven known deaths. Seven of those killed worked in an Ipswich colliery inundated by the Bremer River, a tributary of the Brisbane River.  Two hundred people were admitted to hospital.  

Many people fled their houses with their 'smalls' or belongings, terrified by the wind and rain.  Hundreds were probably left homeless by the incredibly high waters.

The economic cost of the flood reached the huge amount of two million pounds but the emotional loss was even more devastating for most 'Brisbanites'.


Hels said...

I suppose the architects, town planners and engineers were caught unawares in 1893 and had to learn from the terrible experience.

But your post prompts the normal reader to ask: are the structures in place now, to avoid the same crisis in 2011?

Viola said...

Unfortunately, they're not. Apparently almost everyone thought that the Wivenhoe dam would protect them from another flood. The developers had a field day after the dam was built. Very expensive houses and apartments were built with river-view. Many of these were ruined or damaged during the January flood.

Even the regulations were changed in many cases to BELOW the 1974 flood level. An architect who designed her own apartment building rang ABC radio. She said that she complied with the building regulations exactly and was astonished to find that the first and second floors were below the 1974 flood level. She had to be evacuated!

Even if the accommodation was not below flood level, in many buildings other important features were. Many lift wells, garages, and even switchboards were flooded!
Often entrances were flooded. People were stranded - in some cases they're still homeless.

Our electricity sub-station used to be on stilts after the 1974 flood. When the dam was built these were removed! The sub-station was inundated!