Easter drenching begins as Queensland coastal areas expected to be battered with wild weather


Parts of Queensland are bracing for extreme weather overnight and into Easter Monday, with central and coastal regions already copping a drenching amid several wild weather warnings. 

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued a severe weather warning for parts of the Wide Bay, Burnett and south-east coast regions, stretching from Seventeen Seventy down to Bribie Island.

Heavy rainfall, damaging winds, big surf and large hail has been forecast to hit parts of the central and coastal areas, with a reprieve in the weather not expected until late on Tuesday.

It comes as the bureau has warned intense rainfall could lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding in areas between Miriam Vale to the Sunshine Coast tonight and through to Monday.

Meanwhile in Queensland’s central west, a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for areas including Longreach, Isisford, Barcaldine, Stonehenge, Evesham Station and Ilfracombe. The bureau says damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfalls are about the region.

Conditions are expected to worsen overnight and further intensify into Easter Monday. 

Senior Meteorologist Lauren Boekel stressed “how serious this weather event could be for some people”.

“For the end of the long weekend, south-east Queensland can expect to see some dangerous weather,” Ms Boekel said.

“We’re expecting to see [rainfall] totals between 120 and 160 millimetres.”

Ms Boekel said within the regions expected to be hit, areas between Miriam Vale in Gladstone and Gympie would see the heaviest deluge.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s peak motoring body, RACQ, warned traffic was backed up on the Bruce Highway heading southbound as motorists braved the wet conditions to return from Easter holidays.

Dangerous surf conditions have already swept across the Sunshine Coast and are expected to move further south on Monday.

A hazardous surf warning was issued on Sunday for the Capricornia Coast and Fraser Island Coast, extending to Sunshine Coast waters on Monday and Gold Coast waters on Tuesday.

Surfers, swimmers, boaters and fishers have been warned to keep out of the water as large, dangerous swells pummel parts of the state’s coastline.

“So that’s damaging surf as well as costal erosion that we see when the waters are rough,” Ms Boekel said.

She said flooding was also a risk in catchments around south-east Queensland that have already been inundated after major flood warnings were in place late last month.

A flood watch has been issued for St Laurence in the Isaac Region down to the New South Wales border, extending inland to the Darling Downs, with the bureau warning of potentially “life-threatening flash flooding” in parts.

“We might be seeing minor to moderate flooding and we might see some … isolated areas of major flooding,” Ms Boekel said.

Authorities have urged people against camping or travelling on the roads over the next 24 hours.

The Quinn family, from Logan, have decided to stay camping at Mudjimba on the Sunshine Coast, despite several weather warnings.

Leanne Quinn said they were happy to be away from home after the lockdown threatened to end their holiday before it began.

“We’re going to stay put. We’re here till Tuesday and I think we’re just going home very wet if we decided to go home,” Ms Quinn said.

“The rain is fairly steady at the moment. It’s not inundating, so if it stays like this, hopefully we won’t be too bad.

“We just kind of thought that if it got really, really bad, we’ll just get in the car and sleep in the car.”

Bundaberg Canegrowers director and farmer Dean Cayley said this bout of wet weather promised to be the best rain the region had seen in years. 

“Until now, we were looking at our fourth summer season where we haven’t had decent rain,” he said.

“My wife said, ‘I haven’t seen you have an Easter off in five years.’

“If we get a good winter in conjunction with this rainfall, it will add tonnes to the cane crop, which is a win-win for everybody.”

SES rescue workers are on standby and sandbags are ready to be collected if needed.

It comes as the weather bureau warned the state was nearing the end of the severe weather season, with conditions expected to return to normal late on Tuesday.

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The half-price airfares deal begins today. Here’s what you need to know about the cheap flights


If you’re in desperate need of a holiday after a year under the shadow of coronavirus, you’re not alone. And today’s the day to book it.

The federal government is spending $1.2 billion on a stimulus program to get Australians to spend up big on domestic travel to support the struggling sector.

International travel is not an option until October at the earliest so it makes sense to travel at home.

Thirteen regions are included in the program, which features half-price airfares on the nation’s three major carriers: Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin.

So make your plans and get ready to book.

Here’s the list of destinations chosen on the basis of their reliance on tourism:

The tickets are on sale from today until the end of July, for travel through until the end of September.

Tickets are meant to be discounted by 50 per cent, according to prices in February. But the prices will be demand-driven and peak periods will cost more.

About 46,000 half-price fares will be offered each week, mostly with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) will be monitoring the prices to make sure there’s no gouging.  

The airlines are directly benefiting from the program, so James Gilchrist Stewart from RMIT thinks it’s unlikely they’ll inflate their prices.

“However, with the end of JobKeeper coming at the same time as these cheap airfares, there’s a possibility accommodation providers and tourism operators may increase their pricing,” he says.

“The bigger question here is whether day trips, equipment hire and food and beverage suddenly get more expensive as tourism operators are desperate, especially as autumn and winter can be quiet at the best of times.

“Worst-case scenario is a $4 beer could cost $12.”

Chrystal Zhang, from RMIT, says demand, the time of day of the flight and the airline will all have an impact on prices.

She says it will likely only a limited number of half-price fares will be available in the first few weeks.

“Bargain hunters should look at routes like Darwin to Cairns, Adelaide to Gold Coast and Avalon to Gold Coast, with one-way fares likely to drop $50 to $80,” Ms Zhang says.

To get the best deals plan further ahead.  

“Travellers will have the best chance of getting a cheaper fare if they travel later in the eligible time frame (July, August and September) but avoid school holidays and weekends,” she says.

Queensland has four destinations on the list, but Brisbane isn’t one of them — which is good news, since most states are advising people not to travel there.

The best option is to plan as far ahead as you can and hope with more people being vaccinated that the impact of localised clusters will be limited.

The current situation in Queensland is enough to make anyone think twice about planning ahead.

Dr Stewart says the constant threat of border closures makes planning a holiday one big headache.  

“Every airline, accommodation and tourism operator have their own terms and conditions — meaning if there’s a lockdown or similar, consumers must unravel multiple contracts for one holiday,” he says.

So buyer beware and have options up your sleeve in case you need to change your plans.

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack says not every destination has been revealed, calling it an “initial list”.

After complaints, Darwin and Hobart have been added to the list.

Other states are angry that their cities have not been included.

Melbourne Airport isn’t included in the list. Western Australia’s only destination is Broome.

Travel within states has also been left out: so Queenslanders, for example, miss out on the airfares to the Whitsundays.

The only exception to that rule is Kangaroo Island: there are flights from Adelaide Airport.

Hopefully, as Australia’s vaccination program rolls out there will be fewer outbreaks and everyone can enjoy their holiday.

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Restored locomotive 3801 begins regional NSW tour, thousands hop on for ride


Rail enthusiasts have had the chance to take a step back in time, with the iconic steam locomotive 3801 making its return to the train tracks in regional NSW.

About 3,000 people boarded the train in Albury across the Easter long weekend as part of a state-wide tour following the train’s 12-year-long restoration.

Passengers were treated to hour-long round trips across three days, with large crowds turning out to see the train departing and arriving.

The 3801 was launched in 1943 and operated as an express passenger locomotive and later as a freight locomotive.

It was formally withdrawn from service in 1962.

Known for its Art Deco streamlining and iconic style, it is the only steam locomotive to have travelled to all mainland Australian states and territories.

Driver Alex Claassens joined the railway more than 40 years ago but said the chance to drive it into Albury this weekend was a career highlight.

“It has taken about 10 years to get it back to the glory of what it is today. It’s been going absolutely fantastic, better than it ever has.”

And he should know.

“I was privileged enough to work on it during the many years of my career. I joined the railway in 1978, so I’ve had a few stints on this train and on this engine,” Mr Claassens said.

“But it’s going better now than it ever has, and it’s really exciting to see the people out here enjoying it because that’s why we all do this work.”

He said the best part of the job was bringing smiles to the passengers’ faces, especially at Easter time after what had been a tough year for many.

“There is something about the romance of steam, certainly from my point of view. I was lucky enough to learn on the Zig Zag Railway many years ago,” he said.

“But there is just something about it.

After 12 years of painstaking restoration work, the steam train is finally back in service.

Transport Heritage NSW rail operations manager Daniel Page said the locomotive was fully stripped down and rebuilt.

“Every nut and bolt was removed. Every piece of it was laid out and restored, and reassembled. The boiler in the locomotive, the main pressure vessel had a rebuild,” Mr Page said.

After recently being relaunched in Sydney, steam locomotive 3801 will now travel throughout NSW on a regional tour.

Mr Page said the decision to start in Albury was an easy one.

“One of its first big journeys we chose for it to do was to bring it to Albury and the Riverina,” he said.

“It’s a place where 3801 frequently operated in the 1940s and 1950s, hauling the crack express trains and moving people around NSW, so it’s really special to be back here in its homeland, so to speak.”

The train will now spend the next week at the Junee Rail Museum.

“In June, we are heading out to the Central West, and then in September we are heading to northern NSW, so we are really excited to be taking steam trains to country NSW where there is a huge affection for them,” Mr Page said.

“It has knocked us over just how many people have a story or a connection to this train.

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Flood repairs and clean-up begins in City of Logan


Logan City Council has today finished construction of a temporary vehicle access
track in a flood-damaged Shailer Park street.

The pathway for residents was opened this afternoon after Boxer Avenue was closed on Sunday following extensive damage from run-off in this week’s major rain event.

Water was pumped out of a broken stormwater pipe beneath Boxer Avenue yesterday to allow work to begin on the temporary access track yesterday morning.

Three vehicles stuck on the damaged street have been removed.

Council will continue to support residents as further repairs take place on the street.

Flood peaks in the Logan and Albert rivers have now passed through City of Logan.

Levels in all waterways are steady or falling.

Some flood-affected roads have re-opened. A list of roads still closed is available on Council’s Disaster Dashboard at Disaster Dashboard 

Remember – If It’s Flooded, Forget It!

The Logan Disaster Coordination Centre was today closed but Council’s will continue to monitor the situation in flood-impacted suburbs over the weekend.

The community is urged to take care as floodwaters recede.

Council recommends avoiding contact with floodwaters for up to five days after heavy rainfall due to potential risks from bacteria carried into waterways from runoff.

To report potholes and other damage please call Council’s Customer Service on 3412 3412. 

Any residents from inundated properties requiring assistance can contact Council online at Flood Impacts 

State Emergency Service (SES) crews from Logan have also been assisting with the flood emergency in New South Wales over the past week.

A team of 10 SES members travelled with equipment including flood boats and a storm damage trailer to Port Macquarie to assist with the evacuation of residents by
boat.

They also helped to repair a number of homes.

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Aged care CCTV trial begins in South Australia




The program is being piloted after the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality. Rhett Burnie reports.

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NSW, Sydney weather clears; NSW flood clean-up begins


Attention is also turning towards a new weather system that may impact the state on Sunday, but the Bureau of Meteorology is not predicting any heavy rainfall.

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Bureau meteorologist Dr Helen Kirkup said the system will move through the western parts of the state on Saturday over areas including the Riverina, Southern Tablelands, South Coast and the ACT, with a possible thunderstorm of two.

By Sunday the system will move towards Sydney, but only 1 mm of rain is predicted. Cooler temperatures will sweep across the city by Monday.

Despite the clearer skies, Dr Kirkup said people needed to be mindful of the flood risk.

“There is so much water in the landscape,” she said. “The flood risk remains, there may be a false sense of security, but flood waters and anything feeding off that is still an unknown [risk].”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the scale of rainfall over the past week and subsequent flooding requires dedicated recovery efforts.

Russell Strickland and Tracey Flood clearing mud from their cabin at Leetsvale Caravan Park along the Hawkesbury River.Credit:Nick Moir

“Our emergency services personnel and volunteers have been outstanding in dealing with the wild weather and the floods, but the scale of rainfall has been enormous and the recovery process will be challenging,” she said.

On Thursday, a huge flood recovery operation commenced on the Mid North Coast after the formation of a clean-up strike force comprising the Australian Defence Force, the Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW.

The team, led by Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who is also Disaster Recovery Minister, will start work in flood-affected areas pending receding waters and a green light from the SES.

“Our priority right now is to ensure roads are accessible, places are safe for people to return, and to assist with washout and clean-up by removing bulk waste,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The 2019/20 bushfires and the clean-up and recovery efforts that followed taught us a great deal, and having worked on bushfire recovery for the past 15 months I will take that experience and those lessons with me to steer recovery following these extreme floods.”

Ms Berejiklian, Mr Barilaro and State Emergency Services Commissioner Carlene York will travel to Dunbogan and Wauchope, along the Mid North Coast on Friday.

To connect with a customer care specialist for flood assistance, call Service NSW between 7am and 7pm on 13 77 88. The contact centre hours have been extended to include weekends while communities recover.

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Rennie begins campaign to bring Wallabies big guns home from overseas


Rennie hopes more players will follow the towering lock’s lead.

“There’s been criticism of Izack and that he left based on money. I don’t think that was ever the case,” Rennie said. “He’s coming back for a fraction of what he was on. That shows he’s desperate to be a Wallaby. And he’s willing to take a big pay cut.

“But he’s going to have to earn it. I think it just highlights what the Wallaby jersey means to him.”

The Waratahs’ woeful start to the season has made earning a Wallabies jersey a tough task for NSW players.

Will Harrison, James Ramm, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Tom Horton and Jack Maddocks are just a few of the players that will be sweating on being included in Rennie’s 40-man Wallabies train on squad, which will be revealed on Sunday.

But Rennie isn’t disheartened. The Wallabies coach has liked what he’s seen at Daceyville this week.

“We’re going to pick on what we see. It’s not always about results,” Rennie said. “It’s a challenge. Some guys are playing really well and are putting pressure on us to pick them in this group.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie at Daceyville on Thursday.Credit:Kate Geraghty

“But we’re going to pick 40 guys. It’s not concrete. There are a few spots where we want to see what plays out in the next three months and [the camp] is the chance to gather these guys in and learn more about them.

“There’s no doubt it’s tough for some guys to shine when the team isn’t going so well but I genuinely believe based on what I saw this week, there will be positive change. Hopefully this week.

“But it’s not an easy side to turn it around against. No one else has beaten [the Reds].”

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The Wallabies will spend the majority of their three day Sanctuary Cove camp taking care of logistics – uniform fittings, photo shoots and other commercial arrangements – but will do some training.

Taking care of the off-field commitments next month will allow Rennie to immediately dive into the areas that let the Wallabies down last year ahead of the July Test series against France.

“There are a number of things we need to improve,” he said. “The quality of our skill set. The quality of our work in contact. We need to tackle better. Our footwork in contact and winning races to create quicker ball. And then a lot of work ethic stuff.

“Getting back on our feet and back into position quicker. We need to work harder to get back into position, whether that’s with or without the ball. So we can stretch the opposition.

“They’re things we were well aware of during the period (last season) and areas we need to grow and get better.

“I’ve certainly seen more emphasis around the country on that in Super Rugby and we’re certainly seeing change.”

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NSW floods: Warning issued on risk of water-borne disease as recovery process begins



With no major rain forecast for at least a week, the huge task of cleaning up can begin.

New South Wales Health is warning residents to be aware of the risk of contamination and the water-borne diseases during the clean up. 

“Many parts of NSW have been badly affected by flooding and some people are beginning to return home,” Dr Adi Vyas, acting director of environmental health at NSW Health, said. 

“Though this will be a distressing and difficult experience, we want to remind people of the need to be safe when cleaning up their home to protect their health.

“Floodwater can be extremely polluted and contaminated with sewage and chemicals. Contact can lead to skin and stomach infections and other rare, but serious conditions, such as leptospirosis.”

More than a dozen evacuation orders remain, and about 60,000 people are on standby to evacuate, with major flood warnings still in place for the Macintyre, Gwydir, Clarence, Hawkesbury, Nepean and Colo rivers.

Some of the 20,000 people forced to leave in NSW have been cleared to return home.

‘No one has ever seen it this bad’: NSW residents shocked by extent of flood damage

The SES issued an all-clear notice for parts of Greystanes in Sydney’s west, and the Kempsey CBD and nearby areas.

Hydrologist Victoria Dodds said flood warnings would likely remain in force across the state, particularly in inland areas, for the days and weeks ahead.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian pleaded with people to stay out of floodwaters after two drivers died trapped in their cars.

A man died in Glenorie in northwest Sydney on Wednesday and the body of another man was found submerged in a ute in Queensland’s southeast.

“You may have heard your local river has peaked or that the worst of the rising waters may have may have ceased (but) the currents underneath the surface are very strong and the flows are doing things that they don’t normally do,” she said.

There have been 11,000 calls for help to the NSW State Emergency Service, and 950 flood rescues.

Fire and Rescue NSW have also rescued three people who were swallowed by a sinkhole near the Mehi River in Moree, where major flooding is occurring.

There is still significant flooding along a number of rivers, but the focus has turned to the northern rivers region, particularly Grafton, Maclean and Ulmarra.

Those in low-lying areas of Ulmarra, Bushgrove and Cowper were ordered to leave on Wednesday afternoon.

Major flooding is also occurring along the Hawkesbury River and authorities say it’s likely to continue in North Richmond and Windsor until the end of the week.

Moree in the northwest, the Upper Hunter around Singleton and parts of the Central Coast are still of concern.

Eighty-nine schools remain closed across the state.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said while tens of thousands of customers have had their electricity restored, about 3600 customers were still without power.

Access to flood areas remains difficult, with some cables still submerged.

Defence and emergency service personnel are flying in essential supplies to isolated communities, particularly North Richmond.

ADF members have already been embedded in emergency operations centres in areas of concern, and are part of teams assisting with damage assessments.

The defence force’s role will be stepped up to a force of about 700, with troops brought in from northern NSW and Newcastle.

“As soon as the all clear has been given, we’ll assist with those SES-lead teams in assisting with the clean up,” ADF Brigadier Mick Garraway said.

Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the clean-up would be dirty, emotional work for the communities, many of which were hit by drought and bushfire before the floods.

“When you think about the last 18 months to two years … our hearts break for these people,” he told Nine’s Today Show.



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NSW weather clears, Windsor flooding damage to be assessed, Mid North Coast flood recovery begins


Police have confirmed the man who died in Glenorie, in Sydney’s north-west, today called triple zero after driving into floodwaters and stayed on the phone for 44 minutes until “contact was lost”.

Detective Inspector Chris Laird gave an update outside Castle Hill police station this afternoon.

He said the young man, from Pakistan, called emergency services at 6.20am to say the “car was sinking” after entering floodwaters while driving north on Cattai Ridge Road, near Hidden Valley Lane.

“The triple zero operator did continue to maintain contact with the 25-year-old male as he was in the car,” Inspector Laird said.

“However, at 7.04am, it’s believe contact was lost with the male. Police arrived on the scene shortly after and were unable to find the car.”

Police divers this afternoon “made the terrible, sad discovery” of the man’s body, Inspector Laird said.

The man had been driving a “brand new hire car” – a Toyota Camry – on his “first day as a contractor for a large commercial organisation”.

“We can only speculate why he couldn’t get out of the car,” Inspector Laird said. “Initial examinations show that he made all reasonable attempts, and that’ll form part of our inquiries as to why he couldn’t exit the car.

“You can only just imagine somebody fighting for their life to get out of a car. That’s what the inside damage to the car looked like … there was no broken windows, he clearly couldn’t get out.”

There were road closures at the time.

The flood gate across the road was 10 metres into the floodwaters and six metres under water, and the car was found approximately six metres under water and 30 metres from the road.

“Given the unprecedented water levels, the gates could not be seen from the roadway at all,” Inspector Laird said.

He said the man’s friends in Australia were “devastated”.

“What’s happened is a complete tragedy,” Inspector Laird said. “We’re trying to find out who his relatives are.”

He added: “The fact that he was on the phone for so long is even more tragic … a man that is possibly about to pass away, and he’s on the phone, and the water’s rising.”

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COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins in Indigenous communities




COVID-19 vaccinations are beginning in some of Australia’s most vulnerable communities, with elders receiving their first doses. Isabella Higgins reports.

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