Philippines’ dollar reserves hit new record


The ease of borrowing in dollars across the globe has been key in preventing the health and economic crisis from spiraling into a financial one by providing companies and governments cheap access to funds. But it may also be sowing seeds for the next crisis: If the greenback sees a sustained appreciation trend, it will drive up debt-servicing costs, potentially creating, for some, repayment difficulties down the road.

The Philippines’ dollar reserves reached a new all-time high as of end-2020, the central bank said on Friday.

GROSS international reserves (GIR) — which shield the country from liquidity shocks — stood at $109.8 billion as of end-December, up 4.8% from $104.8-billion level as of end-November and 25% higher than the $87.839 billion a year earlier.

“This buffer is equivalent to 11.7 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and primary income, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement on Friday.

“It is also about 9.6 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 5.5 times based on residual maturity,” it added.

The BSP said the increase was supported by inflows from the central bank’s foreign exchange operation, revaluation gains from its gold holdings, and proceeds from the national government’s global bonds.

These gains were partially offset by foreign currency debt payments by the national government.

“The BSP has more than enough GIR to weather most short term spikes in demand for foreign currency in the future with reserves hitting yet another historical high and accounting for a good number of months worth of imports,” ING Bank-NV Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in an email.

Broken down, gold reserves stood at $11.605 billion as of end-November, climbing 45% against its $8.015-billion level a year ago.

Gains from investment abroad stood at $93.428 billion, making up the bulk of the reserves. It rose 24% from last year’s $75.304 billion.

Buffers in the form of reserves in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased 37.7% to $812.9 million from $590.4 million.

Special drawing rights – or the money the Philippines can tap from the IMF – went up 3.6% to $1.224 billion from $1.182 billion in the year prior.

Meanwhile, foreign currency deposits decreased 0.8% to $2.726 billion from $2.747 billion.

BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno has said they expect to continue beefing up the dollar reserves with the crisis yet to be resolved.

During the BusinessWorld One on One online interview on Wednesday, Mr. Diokno that GIR could possibly reach “$110 billion this year and even $120 billion by next year”.

“The BSP will continue to be opportunistic in investing to maximize value to the bank, choosing between gold, dollars and Treasuries [securities] when market conditions warrant it,” ING Bank-NV Manila’s Mr. Mapa said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble








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Samsung’s Galaxy S21 premium smartphones to hit India later this month


South Korean tech giant Samsung said it will bring its new lineup of flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones to the Indian market by the end of the month with prices starting ₹69,999, intensifying competition in the premium segment.

Samsung, which competes with Apple and OnePlus in the premium segment in India, said customers in the country can pre-book all three variants — Galaxy S21 Ultra, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 — from Friday.

The new phones were unveiled on January 14 at a global virtual event ‘Galaxy Unpacked 2021’.

“All the three devices are hyper fast 5G ready and are powered with Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chipset. Consumers can pre-book Galaxy S21 Series starting January 15 across Samsung’s Exclusive Stores and retail stores and on Samsung.com and leading online portals,” it said in a statement.

Pre-booked consumers will start getting deliveries on January 25, while Galaxy S21 series goes on sale in India on January 29.

The Galaxy S21 will be priced between ₹69,999-73,999, Galaxy S21+ for ₹81,999-85,999 and the Galaxy S21 Ultra will retail for ₹1,05,999-1,16,999.

“We are living in a mobile-first world, and with so many of us working remotely and spending more time at home, we wanted to deliver a smartphone experience that meets the rigorous multimedia demands of our continuously changing routines,” said T.M. Roh, president and head of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics.

He added that for over a decade, the Galaxy S series has delivered groundbreaking, flagship mobile experiences and the new Galaxy S21 series builds on this legacy.

The Galaxy S21 features a 6.2-inch display, 10MP front and triple rear camera, 8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB internal memory and 4000 mAh battery. The Galaxy S21+ features a larger 6.7-inch display and 4800 mAh battery.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 6.8-inch display and 5,000 mAh battery.

Samsung is introducing support for its S Pen on the Galaxy S series in the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The S Pen allows users to draw, take notes, edit photos and sign documents on the screen itself. Users will be able to use an existing S Pen from a Galaxy Note/Tab or purchase a new one.

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Samsung’s Galaxy S21 premium smartphones to hit India later this month


South Korean tech giant Samsung said it will bring its new lineup of flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones to the Indian market by the end of the month with prices starting ₹69,999, intensifying competition in the premium segment.

Samsung, which competes with Apple and OnePlus in the premium segment in India, said customers in the country can pre-book all three variants — Galaxy S21 Ultra, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 — from Friday.

The new phones were unveiled on January 14 at a global virtual event ‘Galaxy Unpacked 2021’.

“All the three devices are hyper fast 5G ready and are powered with Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chipset. Consumers can pre-book Galaxy S21 Series starting January 15 across Samsung’s Exclusive Stores and retail stores and on Samsung.com and leading online portals,” it said in a statement.

Pre-booked consumers will start getting deliveries on January 25, while Galaxy S21 series goes on sale in India on January 29.

The Galaxy S21 will be priced between ₹69,999-73,999, Galaxy S21+ for ₹81,999-85,999 and the Galaxy S21 Ultra will retail for ₹1,05,999-1,16,999.

“We are living in a mobile-first world, and with so many of us working remotely and spending more time at home, we wanted to deliver a smartphone experience that meets the rigorous multimedia demands of our continuously changing routines,” said T.M. Roh, president and head of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics.

He added that for over a decade, the Galaxy S series has delivered groundbreaking, flagship mobile experiences and the new Galaxy S21 series builds on this legacy.

The Galaxy S21 features a 6.2-inch display, 10MP front and triple rear camera, 8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB internal memory and 4000 mAh battery. The Galaxy S21+ features a larger 6.7-inch display and 4800 mAh battery.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 6.8-inch display and 5,000 mAh battery.

Samsung is introducing support for its S Pen on the Galaxy S series in the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The S Pen allows users to draw, take notes, edit photos and sign documents on the screen itself. Users will be able to use an existing S Pen from a Galaxy Note/Tab or purchase a new one.

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Coronavirus Australia news: COVID-19 deaths in the United States hit another one-day high as infections near 23 million



Coronavirus deaths in the US have hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II.

The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday (local time), with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past two-and-a-half months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out.

New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average. More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine.

AP

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Pension payouts hit a record Sh20.4 billion


Economy

Pension payouts hit a record Sh20.4 billion


National Treasury building. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Statistics by the office of the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that the value of retirement perks paid out to civil servants jumped 33.33 percent in July-September 2020 from Sh15.36 billion in a similar window of 2019 — exposing the pension burden facing the government.
  • Michael Kagika, the Director of Pensions at The National Treasury, attributed the Sh5.08 billion jump to a court ruling that led to the revision of pension claims for teachers who retired between 1997 and 2003.

Pension and gratuity payouts hit a record high of Sh20.44 billion in the first quarter of the current financial year, new data shows, even as the Treasury raced to clear a backlog and honour a court award to a group of retired teachers.

Statistics by the office of the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that the value of retirement perks paid out to civil servants jumped 33.33 percent in July-September 2020 from Sh15.36 billion in a similar window of 2019 — exposing the pension burden facing the government.

Michael Kagika, the Director of Pensions at The National Treasury, attributed the Sh5.08 billion jump to a court ruling that led to the revision of pension claims for teachers who retired between 1997 and 2003.

“Teachers who retired between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 2003 went to court and had a revision of their pension,” he told the Business Daily Monday.

“After the judgment, what this meant was that the employer (Teachers Service Commission) had to review the list and this resulted in significant increase in the pension claims. We are paying most of the claims now.”

The High Court in 2019 upheld a ruling in which the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) was ordered to process pensions for more than 50,000 teachers who retired between July 1,1997 and June 30,2003 based on salaries awarded in the 1997 agreement.

The TSC had unsuccessfully sought to overturn an October 23, 2008 by Justice David Maraga, claiming that the retired teachers had inflated the amount payable, contrary to the court’s direction of 2008. The teachers’ employer argued that the amount should have been Sh16.7 billion and not Sh43.2 billion but lost in its application to have the ruling set aside and the matter heard by a three-judge bench.

“After the judgment, what this meant was that the employer (Teachers Service Commission) had to review the list and this resulted significant increase in the pension claims. We are paying most of the claims now,” Mr Kagika said without providing details of the amount of pension payout to teachers in the July-September 2020 period.

He also attributed the jump to the Treasury’s bid to clear a backlog that has been in place for years as the State grappled with the rising burden of pension payouts.

The Treasury last year said that it would re-engineer and upgrade the pensions system to clear the pension payment backlog by December.

”We also had a backlog and increasing our efficiencies has also led to the rise in pension payouts,” Mr Kagika said.

Pension payment for retired civil servants stood at Sh13.27 billion in the first quarter of the 2017/18 year but has now increased 54 percent to Sh20.44 billion in similar period over the four years.

The jump in pension payouts comes at a time the State rolled out the long-awaited Public Service Superannuation Scheme (PSSS) where all civil servants make monthly contributions for their pension starting with this month’s salary.

More than 530,000 civil servants, including police and teachers, will starting this month take a two percent cut from their salaries for their pension contribution.

The contribution will increase to five percent in the second year and 7.5 percent in the third year.

Under the scheme, civil servants will cede about Sh2.4 billion monthly or Sh28.8 billion annually to the fund that will emerge as Kenya’s largest pension scheme.

The government will match every worker’s monthly contribution at the rate of 7.5 percent of the pensionable salary.

Civil servants had for years not been contributing to their pension, with their benefits paid straight from public coffers.

The Treasury has warned that the pension burden remains a risk to the budget.

It has budgeted Sh119.19 billion towards retirees benefits in the current year to June, an amount which is nearly three-and-a half times more than the Sh27.71 billion seven years earlier.

In October 2019, more than 300,000 retired civil servants received a three percent pay rise, adding to the cost of keeping them comfortable in old age.

The adjustment was in keeping with the tradition of increasing the monthly pension by three percent every two years to match the rising cost of living.

The pension burden on the taxpayer has been piling over the years despite a knee-jerk decision in 2009 to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60, partly due to the Treasury’s failure to push through necessary reforms, including a contributory scheme.

The increase in the retirement age was meant to slow down the number of retirees entering the pension pool and offer the government headroom to set up the contributory pension scheme, which has been shelved several times.

The looming retirement of some 25,000 teachers before 2022 in addition to other civil servants exiting service in the coming years further add to the pension burden. Between March to September 2018, more than 50,000 people exited the civil service.

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Threat from bushfire which hit town of Lucindale downgraded as firefighters monitor area


The Country Fire Service (CFS) says the threat posed by a huge grass fire which ripped through part of South Australia’s south-east has reduced.

The fire started early Monday afternoon in hot and windy conditions at Blackford near Mount Scott Conservation Park, not far from Kingston SE.

It quickly reached the town of Lucindale and burned at least 16,000 hectares.

Multiple emergency warnings were earlier issued and there are fears homes have been destroyed, but the threat level has since been downgraded.

An advice message for Blackford, Avenue Range and Lucindale issued just after 9:00pm told locals to “stay alert, monitor local conditions and decide what you will do if the situation changes”.

“At this time there is no threat to life or property, and firefighters are attending this fire,” the CFS warning message states.

CFS state duty commander Brenton Hastie said after the fire rapidly grew, its rate of spread significantly slowed on Monday evening.

The grass fire is burning towards Lucindale.(Supplied: Nick McBride)

Mr Hastie earlier said there were “reports of structures being impacted in Lucindale”, and vision taken from a helicopter shows smouldering structures around the town.

Lucindale has a population of about 550 people and about 100 locals were forced to shelter in the town hall.

“We looked outside and the sky was full of smoke,” said one local resident.

Aerial photo of a blackened land within the town of Lucindale, as a fire sweeps through.
The fire rapidly approached Lucindale, impacting structures.(ABC News)

Local deli owner Leanne Graetz said that, despite the threat to the town, she was “feeling safe” alongside other locals.

“I’m right in the main street now and it’s quite clear … there’s smoke all around us but it’s not actually affecting the township,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Lucindale residents standing in front of a building in town
Lucindale residents sought shelter in town.(Supplied)

Several roads were closed across the fire zone.

More than 40 fire trucks and six waterbombers, as well as support aircraft, have been deployed to battle the blaze, with the CFS bolstering resources by calling in more trucks and brigades from as far afield as the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Smoke about the Lucindale grass fire
Smoke can be seen over the Lucindale fire, which is threatening the town.(Supplied: Country Fire Service)

‘Incredibly difficult to control’

The cause of the fire — and the full extent of its impact on homes — remain unknown, and farmers are yet to assess livestock losses.

Some families in the fire’s path fled to Naracoorte, where a bushfire safe zone was set up.

Mr Hastie said that, at the height of the blaze, it was “incredibly difficult to control” and was “moving at a rapid rate of spread”.

“The terrain in that part of the world is broken up by areas that are difficult to access,” he said.

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Lucindale resident Kim Corrigan, whose husband is fighting the fire, earlier said she could “see a heck of a lot of smoke” and was currently preparing to evacuate.

“This is the first time I’ve felt a little bit frightened of a fire,” she said.

A CFS truck driving along the road with a fire burning behind
Residents have been told to find shelter if they cannot leave.(Supplied: Nick McBride)

SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts said more than 3,100 properties lost power around the bushfire area.

“Current conditions prevent us from safely accessing our electricity network which will delay restoring power,” SA Power Networks’ website states.

Cattle gather on a property east of Lucindale with smoke in the background
Lucindale is an agricultural town about 345 kilometres south-east of Adelaide.(Supplied: Tegan Elliott)

Total fire bans are currently in place across most of SA, with an extreme fire danger rating for the state’s lower south east.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Simon Timcke said weather conditions would change during the evening, with westerly winds starting to bring cooler temperatures but “unfortunately no rain”.

“Once that cooler air is there then those south-westerly winds won’t be as strong as the north-westerly ones we’ve seen earlier today.”

A CFS water bomber flies over a property near Lucindale, in SA's south east, with thick black smoke in the sky from a bushfire.
The CFS deployed six water bombers to battle the grass fire burning towards Lucindale, in the south east.(Supplied: Hailey Brewster)

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UK steps up vaccinations as coronavirus-related deaths and case numbers hit record highs



The United Kingdom is facing its worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Chief Medical Officer says, with deaths and cases in the country hitting record highs ahead of the rollout of a mass vaccination program.

According to Johns Hopkins University, deaths from the virus have now exceeded 81,500 in the UK — the world’s fifth-highest toll — with 3,081,368 people testing positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, the UK is rushing out its largest ever vaccination program, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories — about 15 million people — by the middle of next month.

But the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chris Whitty, warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service),” he said.

“Anybody who is not shocked by the number of people in hospital who are seriously ill at the moment and who are dying over the course of this pandemic, I think, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation,” he told the BBC.

NHS facing ‘a significant crisis’

During the peak of the first outbreak in April about 18,000 people were in hospital but now there are 30,000.

Professor Whitty said the health service was facing “a significant crisis”.

“Everybody says that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,” he said.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city’s hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and ministers and health chiefs pleaded with people to respect lockdown measures and stay at home unless it was essential to go out.

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Lending to SMEs hit £54 billion in first nine months of 2020


Banks lent twice as much to small and medium-sized businesses in the first three quarters of 2020 as in the whole of 2019. Gross lending to SMEs reached £54 billion between January and September, UK Finance, the trade body, said.

More than 1.5 million businesses have drawn on government-backed loans as nationwide coronavirus restrictions forced large parts of the service economy to a standstill.

Close to 1.4 million have drawn on the chancellor’s Bounce Back scheme, which offers 100 per cent state-backed loans. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which offers 80 per cent state-backed loans, has supported over 77,900 small and medium-sized businesses, while 658 larger businesses have benefited from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Those loans total £68 billion, with small and medium-sized businesses making up a large proportion of the total. “SME financing was particularly in demand in the service industries, which were among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” the report said.

Stephen Pegge, managing director of commercial finance at UK Finance, said: “2020 was a challenging year with the disruption of Covid-19 restrictions and uncertainty ahead of the end of EU transition. The UK’s banking and finance industry continues to support businesses of all sizes across the country to help them trade and invest for recovery.”

Recruitment of permanent staff rose in December

Employers expanded recruitment of permanent staff last month for the first time since September, according to KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

Employers resumed hiring as they responded to positive news about the deployment of the coronavirus vaccines. “Recruiters indicated that the upturn was driven by increased market activity and greater confidence, partly due to recent vaccine news,” the REC report said.

However, employers are still cautious about the outlook and are overwhelmingly opting to meet demand with temporary workers instead of permanent staff.

Demand for temporary workers rose at its fastest in over two years. The temporary billings index rose from 56.1 to 57.9, while the permanent placements index rose from 48.2 to 51.1. Any reading over 50 signals growth. Overall vacancies increased for the first time in two months.

Growing demand for workers filtered through to pay packets. Starting salaries and temporary wages both increased, albeit slightly, for the first time since March.

James Stewart, vice-chairman at KPMG, said: “We will have to see what January brings with a new lockdown sure to fuel economic uncertainty, alongside preparing and adapting to the new relationship with the EU. But there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel for both business and jobseekers.”

Central banks “need new tools” to fight upheaval

Central banks must develop new tools to deal with the types of upheaval unleashed in the financial markets during the pandemic, a senior Bank of England official has said.

Markets seized up in March as countries went into lockdown, causing chaos in even normally stable debt markets.

Andrew Hauser, executive director for markets, said in a speech that many of the vulnerabilities had been around for some time and were likely to grow “as households and firms come to rely ever more closely on such markets to care for their savings, and fund investment”.

The huge injections of liquidity by central banks were appropriate, he said, but were not well suited to long-term solutions.



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Pakistan hit by nationwide power blackout



  People are silhouetted on vehicles headlights on a dark street during widespread power outages in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Pakistan’s national power grid experienced a major breakdown late night on Saturday, leaving millions of people in darkness, local media reported. (AP)

Islamabad: Several cities and towns across Pakistan plunged into darkness late on Saturday night following a huge blackout due to a fault in the power distribution system, according to media reports.

The power outage was reported shortly before midnight almost simultaneously in many cities. Residents of Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and others faced the blackout, the reports stated.

 

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat tweeted that the National Transmission Despatch Company’s lines have tripped, causing outage. “It will take sometime before everything gets back to normal,” he added.

Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan said the frequency in the power distribution system suddenly dropped from 50 to zero, causing the blackout. “We are trying to ascertain what caused the drop in frequency, Ayub said.

Initial reports suggest there was a fault in the Guddu power plant in Sindh province at 11.41 pm, the Energy Ministry tweeted.

 

The fault tripped the high transmission lines and this resulted in the system frequency to drop from 50 to zero in less than a second, causing power plants to shut down, according to the ministry.

It added that Khan was overseeing the restoration work at the National Power Control Center.

The minister appealed to people to maintain restraint and said power restoration was being carried out with caution and teams were on the ground.

Later, Khan posted a series of tweets regarding restoration of power in several grids.

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Annual ritual to remember ‘inland tsunami’ that hit Toowoomba a decade ago


Every year for the past decade, one of Toowoomba’s oldest stores, Rowes, has posted the same photograph on its website on this date.

In it, a sodden lounge chair is wedged upside down on a Russell Street parking meter – an oddity only revealed once the torrent subsided, exposing the damage caused by an “inland tsunami” on January 10, 2011.

An armchair sits impaled on a parking meter opposite Rowes in Russell Street the day after the January 10 floodwaters rushed through the regional city in 2011.Credit:Michelle Szepanowski

The city of Toowoomba sits 691 metres above sea level on a strip of the Great Dividing Range about 119 kilometres inland from Brisbane.

Ten years ago,turbulent floodwaters swirled angrily into the CBD after 160 millimetres of rain fell in 36 hours on top of a month’s record rainfall, turning the normally calm West and East creeks into a frothing, angry river.

That river, at the top of the Great Dividing Range, tragically led to the deaths of two people – mother and son Donna and Jordan Rice – after their car stalled in the rising water.

Across the state, 33 people died and three remain missing from the January 2011 floods, which affected 78 per cent of Queensland and caused $2.38 billion in damages.

Toowoomba’s original main road, Russell Street, arose in the 1850s, and by the 1860s was home to the town’s first post office, police station, pub and public toilet.

Floodwaters roar through Toowoomba's Russell Street on January 10, 2011.

Floodwaters roar through Toowoomba’s Russell Street on January 10, 2011.Credit:Claytonnnn on Twitter 2011

The railway line that crosses it runs parallel to Victoria Street and beneath a small bridge where West Creek dips to meet East Creek.

In the middle of Russell Street is Rowes Furniture Store, where it has been for 129 years, since 1892.

January 2021: Little has changed at the Russell Street and Victoria Street intersection in Toowoomba since the floods of January 2011.

January 2021: Little has changed at the Russell Street and Victoria Street intersection in Toowoomba since the floods of January 2011.Credit:Tony Moore Brisbane Times

Rowes administrative assistant Michelle Szepanowski was working on January 10, 2011, when the dirty brown water flowed through the shop like a river.

“It scares me when there are floodwaters around,” she said.

“I was driving home to Kingsthorpe about 9pm that night [about 30 minutes towards Dalby] and I honestly don’t know how I got home because all of the creeks I’ve always crossed were washed out and flooded.

“When I came back the next day, there was no road there. Ruthven Street, Bridge Street, it just looked like a bomb had hit the place. It was just devastation. Cars were turned over. It was horrible.

“We started off trying to sandbag the front doors because there was a bit of water coming up the street over the footpaths.

Rowe's Furniture employee Michelle Szepanowski. "Furniture was being washed out the front door into Russell Street."

Rowe’s Furniture employee Michelle Szepanowski. “Furniture was being washed out the front door into Russell Street.”Credit:Tony Moore

“It was about two o’clock in the afternoon. It started to come in through the front doors off Russell Street and then suddenly, it was just a huge flood coming in from the back and through the back doors and through the office.”

Eventually the water in the store’s lower display room was almost two metres high and washing heavy furniture out the front door and against the hotel walls across the road.

“All the windows and front doors were smashed, and the furniture was all out in the street,” Ms Szepanowski said.

“I remember calling [owner] Mr Rowe at the time and telling him that all the furniture was washing down Russell Street and going down West Creek and out into the country. He was just flabbergasted.”

Rowes warehouse manager Wayne Miller stands waist deep in floodwater as furniture floats out to Russell Street.

Rowes warehouse manager Wayne Miller stands waist deep in floodwater as furniture floats out to Russell Street.Credit:Michelle Szepanowski

A decade on, most of Russell Street’s shops have remained. The saddlery stayed. The National Hotel stayed. Mike Williams Country Clothing stayed.

Rowes has begun a major $11 million redevelopment, which should be finished by mid-year.

Significant flood recovery work has been completed, however Russell Street itself is now in line for a facelift.

Business retailer Rob Mercer says little has changed in Toowoomba's Russell Street.

Business retailer Rob Mercer says little has changed in Toowoomba’s Russell Street.Credit:Tony Moore

Straight across the road from Rowes, fourth-generation business operator Rob Mercer is waiting for Toowoomba Regional Council to also rejuvenate Russell Street, which was the city’s original “high street”. Today it is Margaret Street.

“At the moment, not a lot has changed. It’s still a situation normal,” Mr Mercer said.

“We haven’t had a lot of [improvement] works done. We have all got back on our feet to continue doing business in Russell Street, but we are waiting for the changes, which begin next month.

“Council comes along next month and begins doing a revitalisation of the street, which is very exciting.

“We will end up getting new footpaths, new underground services, a green treed area, and a softening of the area, which hopefully will bring people back down here again.”

Queensland’s 2010-2011 floods

  • Lives lost: 33
  • Insured cost: $2.38 billion
  • Buildings damaged: 29,000
  • Homes damaged: 3600
  • Evacuated: 5900
  • “When Tropical Cyclone Tasha met an extreme La Niña weather pattern, enough water to fill three million Olympic swimming pools rained down on Queensland. Dams and rivers broke their banks and swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined.”

Source: Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience

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