Coronial investigation into baby boy’s death finds Queensland Child Safety Department ignored warnings


A coronial investigation into the death of an eight-week-old boy has revealed how Queensland’s Child Safety Department ignored crucial warning signs from medical experts before the infant died in his mother’s lap.

The child — known as T — was born at Logan Hospital, south of Brisbane, in June 2015 with methadone and amphetamine in his body.

He was found dead less than two months later with his sleeping mother slumped over his body on the couch.

A forensic pathologist determined T had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and that it was highly likely mechanical asphyxia had occurred.

The family was known to the Child Safety Department due to the mother’s history of drug abuse, which had resulted in two of her older children being removed from her care.

After T’s birth, nursing staff reported seeing blankets over his face while the parents were present and said the mother had been found asleep on top of him while he was lying in a large cot.

The mother denied she used drugs during her pregnancy, but a test later found her positive for methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

A family risk evaluation completed less than three weeks after T’s birth deemed the circumstances “high risk”, but a safety assessment found the baby was “safe” in the family home.

Main entrance of Logan Hospital at Meadowbrook, south of Brisbane on April 10, 2019.
The child, known as T, was born at Logan Hospital, south of Brisbane, in June 2015.(ABC News: Ellie Sibson)

An investigation by Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley found the Department ignored important information provided by medical professionals about the risk her drug used posed to the baby’s safety.

“I find that the department’s assessment of T as being a child not in need of protection was incorrect,” Ms Bentley said.

“Doctors and nurses warned the department that the mother was using drugs and had fallen asleep on top of T but the department did not adequately assess that information.

“I publish these findings in order to highlight the risk factors for SIDS including co-sleeping and the use of drugs.”

The death was investigated by the Child Death Case Review Panel (CDCRP), which said it was “alarmed at the poor and completely inadequate response by the department to the very serious child protection issues” in T’s case.

The panel found there was “clear evidence that the mother was using amphetamines” but it was accepted that she would “work with the department voluntarily to ensure T could remain with her at home”.

The panel said if department staff did not change their unsafe practices, their work may result in “children being placed at an unacceptable risk of future harm”.

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Before Himalayan Flood, India Ignored Warnings of Development Risks


NEW DELHI — Long before the floods came, washing away hundreds of people and wiping out newly constructed dams and bridges, the warning signs were clear.

The Himalayas have been warming at an alarming rate for years, melting ice long trapped in glaciers, soil and rocks, elevating the risk of devastating floods and landslides, scientists warned. Nearby populations were vulnerable, they said, and the region’s ecosystem had become too fragile for large development projects.

But the Indian government overrode the objections of experts and the protests of local residents to blast rocks and build hydroelectric power projects in volatile areas like the one in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where disaster struck.

Officials said Monday that bodies of 26 victims had been recovered while the search proceeded for nearly 200 missing people. On Sunday a surge of water and debris went roaring down the steep mountain valleys of the Rishiganga river, erasing everything in its path. Most of the victims were workers on the power projects.

Villagers said the authorities overseeing the expensive development projects had not prepared them for what was to come, giving a false sense of confidence that nothing was going to happen.

“There was no program or training in the village about disaster management by the government,” said Bhawan Singh Rana, head of the Raini village, hit by some of the worst damage. “Our village is on a rock, and we fear that it may slide anytime.”

Security forces focused on one tunnel where they said 30 people were trapped. Food was airdropped to about 13 villages where the roads have been cut off, with roughly 2,500 people trapped.

The devastation of the Uttarakhand floods has once again focused attention on the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas, where millions of people are feeling the impact of global warming. The World Bank has warned that climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia. But the effects are already felt, often in deadly ways, in large parts of the Himalayan belt from Bhutan to Afghanistan.

The region has about 15,000 glaciers, which are retreating at a rate of 100 to 200 feet per decade. The melting feeds or creates thousands of glacial lakes that can suddenly break through the ice and rocky debris holding them back, causing catastrophic floods. In Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan, a large number of glacial lakes have been deemed imminently dangerous by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an intergovernmental group.

Nepal has been particularly vulnerable, with climate change forcing entire villages to migrate to lower lands for survival from a deepening water crisis. Deadly flash floods, some caused by glacial lakes bursting, have also become more frequent.

Scientists have warned repeatedly that development projects in the region are a deadly gamble, potentially making matters worse.

Ravi Chopra, the director of People’s Science Institute in Uttarakhand, said a 2012 expert group appointed by the government had recommended that dams should not be built in the Alaknanda-Bhagirathi basin, including on the Rishiganga. He was part of a scientific committee appointed by India’s highest court in 2014 that also advised against building dams in “the para-glacial zone,” what he described as an area where the valley floor is more than about 7,000 feet above sea level.

“But the government has gone ahead and chosen to build them,” he said. Both of the hydroelectric projects hit by Sunday’s flood — one obliterated and the other badly damaged — were built in that zone, he said.

D.P. Dobhal, a former scientist at the government-run Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said, “When we develop such projects in the Himalayas such as hydro projects or roads and rail, in detailed project reports the glacier study data is never taken into consideration or included.”

The government is building more than 500 miles of highway in Uttarkhand to improve access to several major Hindu temples, despite environmentalists’ objections to the massive forest clearance required, which can hasten erosion and raise the risk of landslides.

A scientific committee appointed by India’s Supreme Court and led by Dr. Chopra concluded last year that the government, in building the highway to the width of 10 meters, about 33 feet, had gone against the advice of its own experts at the Transport Ministry. The government had argued a wider road brought more economic dividends and was needed for potential deployment of large-scale military equipment to the disputed border with China.

The Supreme Court sided with one faction of the scientific committee and ruled that the road should be limited to 5.5 meters, or about 18 feet. But by that time, hundreds of acres of forest and tens of thousands of trees had already been cut, a report in the Indian news outlet The Scroll said.

“When you have your own ministry experts telling you the Himalayan region roads should not have a tarred surface of more than 5.5 meters, and then to go against your own experts’ recommendations, then that is a serious matter,” Dr. Chopra said. “Unless the courts look into the issue of the sanctioning officials and the executing officials personally accountable, I don’t think the situation will change.”

Trivendra Singh Rawat, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, warned against seeing the flooding as “a reason to build anti-development narrative.”

“I reiterate our government’s commitment to develop hills of Uttarakhand in a sustainable manner, and we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the achievement of this goal,” Mr. Rawat said on Twitter.

Exactly what caused the latest flooding was not clear as of Monday night, with the Indian government saying a team of experts would visit the site to investigate. Ranjeet Rath, the head of India’s geological survey, said initial information suggested a “glacial calving at highest altitude.” Calving is the breaking of ice chunks from a glacier’s edge.

Scientists studying satellite imagery from before and after the flooding said it was likely not caused by a glacial lake bursting, as no such lake was visible in the images.

They said the disaster most likely began with the collapse of a rock slope that had become unstable from thawing of ice in recent summers, and such a landslide could have broken up part of a glacier.

An avalanche could have dammed the river temporarily, creating a lake which then broke free, said Umesh K. Haritashya, a scientist who studies glacial hazards at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Avalanches also generate heat from friction, which can melt ice that lies in its path or is in the tumbling debris.

“Basically it’s a landslide that is some fraction rock, and some fraction ice,” said Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary in Alberta. “A lot of the ice melted. And it might have picked up a lot more.”

The Raini village was in one of the areas hit hardest on Sunday, where the 13-megawatt Rishiganga hydro power project was completely washed away. Afterward, roughly 100 of the village’s 150 residents spent the night in the open.

“We did not sleep in our houses out of fear that more water may come, rocks may shift, something more dangerous may happen,” said Mr. Rana, the village head. “We took our bedding up in the forest, lit some fires, and somehow passed the night.”

The area was the site of a well-known environmental protest against deforestation in the 1970s. Protesters, a large number of them women, would hug trees to stop loggers from cutting them, in a movement that became known as “chipko,” or embrace.

Mr. Rana said local residents also held protests against construction of the Rishiganga power project, which began generating electricity last year, and they even filed court cases, but to no avail. They feared that the blasting of rocks would cause deadly landslides.

“We used to hear blasting and see the rocks shift,” he said. “When this project was under construction, half of our village slid. We requested to be shifted from here to another place. The government said they would do it, but it never happened.”

Bhadra Sharma contributed reporting from Kathmandu, Nepal, and Henry Fountain from Albuquerque.



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Heavy rain keeps SES busy in Tasmania’s north-west, flood warnings remain


Tasmania’s north has been pounded by heavy rain and thunderstorms, leading to flash flooding and cutting power to thousands of homes overnight.

There have been no reports of major damage but the State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 50 call-outs, mainly to individual houses in the north-west.

Nearly 2,500 properties were without power overnight morning but it has since been restored to most areas.

Police have advised some roads are affected by water.

In the 24 hours to 5:00am, many parts of the north and north-west received more than 100 millimetres of rain.

The town of Wynyard has taken the brunt, with a record-breaking downpour.

Its 99.8 millimetres the biggest February rain recorded in nearly 30 years.

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“It’s the highest rainfall Wynyard has seen since the 6th of June in 2016,” Tasmanian meteorologist Luke Johnston said.

Meteorologist Alex Melitsis said higher than average rainfall over the summer created a perfect storm for the rain event.

“We have actually had a fair bit of rain over Tasmania over the last month so that’s helping to create runoff and the rain’s less likely to absorb into the soil,” he said.

Most of Tasmania’s rivers remain below flood level though the bureau reports several in the north are rising.

Flood warnings have been downgraded for several parts of the state.

The downpour led to a flurry of requests for assistance, with the SES responding to 52 call-outs, the majority in Wynyard and Devonport.

The SES said it was not expecting a repeat of the devastating 2016 floods.

Floodwaters cover a campground at Gunns Plains near Ulverstone.(Supplied: Wings Wildlife Park)

Nick Connolly from the SES told ABC Radio Hobart most were maintenance issues, such as blocked gutters and leaks.

He said while there had been no significant road closures, the worst could be to come.

‘Not over yet’

Ailsa Bonell, a resident of Blackwood Creek in Tasmania’s northern midlands, said the creek overflowed, leaving the land and house where she lives inundated.

“It came up to probably about an inch or so over my ankles and it’s got into the fridge, into the freezer, into the cupboards, into the bathroom,” she said.

“My shower is an absolute mess. It’s full of mud … all the power points, down lights. Everything just went under water.”

Waratah Wynyard Mayor Robby Walsh said council workers were kept busy unblocking stormwater drains to relieve flooding.

“There was six inches of water [on the roads], 150 mills of water in a couple of places, down at the wharf there was a blockage there,” he said.

“The table drains were working overtime to manage the run-off.”

He said it was hard to see driving on the roads and there was a lot of lightning.

The bureau said Wynyard got record 99.8mm but Cr Walsh said his rain gauge this morning showed more than that.

“I went to my rain gauge and I tipped out 110 mills from the downpour in the night.”

The Mayor said conditions looked ominous.

“I don’t think it’s all over yet.”

Water over a suburban road after heavy rain
Wynyard residents woke to water over several local roads.(Supplied: Tania Johnstone)

Independent MLC Ruth Forrest, who lives at Wynyard, said she had not seen such heavy rain.

“It was really heavy, I haven’t seen rain as heavy where we live in Wynyard with so much laying on the ground in such a short time,” she said.

She hopes it is a short-impact event for Wynyard.

“We don’t tend to have the high levels of flooding, some areas do, but we have had unusual flooding activity in the past when dried-up creek beds have reinvigorated.

“That happened in the big floods of 2016.”

Severe weather warnings to wind back

Ducks walk near a flooded road
It was good weather for ducks at Gunns Plains where a road has been closed by floodwaters.(Supplied: Wings Wildlife Park)

It wasn’t just the state’s north and north-west affected by the downpour.

There were a dozen call-outs across the rest of the state.

Hobart had 40 millimetres of rain and kunanyi/Mt Wellington had 69mm.

The east coast experienced wind gusts of more than 90 kilometres per hour.

“That’s pretty significant for the east coast,” Mr Johnston said.

“It’s not as interesting as the rain … but certainly anyone camping by the east coast would’ve noticed.

“The good news is things are easing pretty rapidly.

“The rain system itself is contracting to the east later on this morning so the severe weather warning for heavy rainfall and the severe weather warning for damaging winds about the east coast should contract and be cleared away later this morning.”

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Another 36 migrants brave ice and snow warnings to make latest crossing from France to UK


Another 36 migrants including women and children braved ice and snow warnings to make the latest crossing from France to the UK. 

Border Force detained the group during the early hours on Saturday who battled the dangerous conditions in a small boat over the Channel. 

They were brought into Dover Marina in Kent and escorted up the gangway to be processed by immigration enforcement.

Groups were seen huddling under light blue blankets for warmth as temperatures plummeted to 39F (4C).

As many as two children, who appeared to be under the age of 10, were hoisted out of the back of the Border Force cutter by an adult migrant.

Another 36 migrants, including women and children, were rescued from a boat on Saturday after battling the weather warnings for snow and ice. Pictured: Migrants arrive at the Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex on January 9, after a rescue operation was launched to save a boat ‘in difficulty’

Officers then held their hand to help them around the mooring in the darkness.

French authorities also prevented 30 people, including seven children, from making the perilous 21-mile journey over the weekend.

This included a group of ten migrants – some severely hypothermic – spotted getting into difficulty off the port of Gravelines on Saturday by crew on the bridge of a DFDS ferry.

Coastal maritime surveillance boat Scarpe, of the maritime gendarmerie, rescued them and returned them to Dunkirk shortly after 6.30am.

An emergency operation was launched to rescue the group which included three people who appeared to need medical attention.

The French Navy’s Dauphin helicopter was deployed to picked up a medical team and drop them off on one of the rescue ships.

The 30 migrants were returned to port where they were checked over by paramedics.

The latest migrant crossings mean 206 people have arrived on UK shores by small boat so far this year.

Saturday's group of migrants were detained by Border Force during the early hours on Saturday. Pictured: A person is helped ashore during a migrant rescue in East Sussex on January 9

Saturday’s group of migrants were detained by Border Force during the early hours on Saturday. Pictured: A person is helped ashore during a migrant rescue in East Sussex on January 9

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: ‘These are illegally facilitated crossings and migrants should been claiming asylum in the first safe country they reach.

‘The Government continues to undertake substantial steps to tackle the unacceptable problem of illegal migration, including legislative changes so crossings of this nature are treated as inadmissible where migrants have travelled through a safe EU country.

‘The Government will continue to seek to return those with no legal right to remain in the UK.’ 

The latest interception of migrants in a small boat comes as earlier this month Border Force stopped a boat ferrying up to 35 migrants towards Sussex coast.

Lifeboats rescued the migrants from a boat, believed to have been carrying children and five injured people. 

At the Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex, migrants were pictured arriving, including children and 5 who were reportedly injured. 

Emergency service teams – including lifeguards and police offers – were seen helping people ashore, including children wrapped in blankets being carried to safety. 

Children are believed to be among those helped during the rescue both in East Sussex and off the coast of Gravelines, France. Pictured: A young migrant is carried by police officer during a rescue mission in East Sussex on January 9

Children are believed to be among those helped during the rescue both in East Sussex and off the coast of Gravelines, France. Pictured: A young migrant is carried by police officer during a rescue mission in East Sussex on January 9

The Home Office told the MailOnline that UK authorities dealt with six incidents involving 103 people on Saturday, January 9, while French authorities prevented three boats with 29 people on board entering UK waters. 

In 2020, four times as many migrants made the dangerous crossing than in 2019, official figures show, with more than 8,400 making the dangerous crossing, up from 1,844 the previous year. 

In response to the MailOnline’s request for comment, Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: ‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making a dangerous and illegally-facilitated crossing.

‘The Government has taken substantial steps to tackle this unacceptable problem of illegal migration. These efforts have contributed to a 70% reduction in crossings since September on fair-weather days, by direct intervention on the French beaches. This means that we have been able to change the patterns of crossings that resulted in a surge of small boat activity 2018 and 2019. 

‘Post EU exit, this Government will work to fix the broken asylum system. Legislative changes to the law are being made to enable cases to be treated as inadmissible if they have travelled through a safe country. The Government will continue to seek to return those with no legal right to remain in the UK.’ 

Though Britain’s new trade deal came into force on January 1, and new laws on asylum seekers along with it, the rules remain largely the same for those attempting the crossing.

Britain has said it will no longer accept asylum claims at sea, paving a way for those crossing The Channel to be returned to France.

But the UK will not be permitted to do that until an agreement with France is reached.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a new deal with France at the end of November, after 757 people crossed, in an attempt to prevent crossings from disembarking from their shores.

She pledged up to £28milllion to double patrols along a 90-mile stretch of French coastline to scupper people smuggling gangs – seen as one of the root causes of the issue.

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Tropical Cyclone Kimi intensifies to category two with warnings extended to Bowen


Tropical Cyclone Kimi has intensified to a category two as it moves south, with a Cyclone Watch now declared to Bowen.

Towns from Innisfail to Ayr, in Far North Queensland, including Lucinda, Palm Island and Townsville are in the warning zone.

The cyclone is currently moving south-southeast and is likely to continue in the same direction throughout the night, bringing with it destructive winds with gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour, and heavy rainfall.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the system was now expected to slow and stall off the coast between Hinchinbrook Island and Townsville on Tuesday, while beginning to weaken.

But it warned, “considerable uncertainty” remained over the future movement of the system and there was a possibility it could cross as a category two cyclone between Hitchinbrook Island and Townsville overnight or Tuesday morning.

More than 200 people have been evacuated from Fitzroy Island off Cairns as a precautionary measure, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was important for locals to stay up to date with current alerts as the cyclone could change course.

Two women in face masks look at a map on a table.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll track Tropical Cyclone Kimi.(Twitter)

Assistant District Officer Mark Lingwood said emergency services were preparing for the extreme weather and deploying staff to the regions where it was predicted the system could make landfall.

“As with any cyclones, we’re never sure exactly where it’s going to go, it’s anticipated it may cross between Cardwell and Lucinda, but there’s nothing stopping it making a right-hand turn and coming into Cairns,” he said.

“QPS are pre-deploying officers from the Cairns area down to the Tully and Cardwell area and also bringing police officers up to the Ingham area.

He urged people not to travel if possible, and to check road closures if they do need to leave their homes.

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Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor Case Might Be Of Airborne Descent

Airborne

Numerous doctors have cited concerns via written messages to the Queensland Government flagging warnings at the Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor.

This was after speculations that airborne disease specialists deemed it to be necessary for investigating whether there was any airborne transmission of the UK strain of coronavirus at the said zone.

The letter was signed by cardiologists, anaesthetists, general practitioners, nurses and physicians, yearning for aerosol scientists and occupational hygienist to be engaged, along with a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) expert, if they haven’t been already.

The letters read, “We believe experts from these three fields have an important role to play in elucidating the cause of viral spread both within the hotel, and in future planning for all hotel quarantine around Australia, and could piece together an important piece of this puzzle for the nation.”

In line with the matter, Kate Cole, the President of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists explained that the group would use science and engineering to make sure that control measures were in place.

“We’re really the science behind the safety. We need to address and accept the risk of aerosol spread of airborne transmission because that’s a key piece that’s missing here. No amount of reviewing CCTV footage is going to pick that up. “

She emphasized that it is imperative to involve technical specialists to have a closer look at the indoor air quality in ventilation inside the facilities and understand if that has been a key factor; as they highly believe it’s likely what contributes to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Occupational and environmental physician David Allen revealed that he did not understand why the Government had not already engaged occupational hygienists like Ms Cole.

As per Dr Allen, “There’s an ongoing concern amongst a lot of health professionals that the Government isn’t acting on the possibility of aerosol transmission of COVID-19,” Dr Allen said. The particles are small enough to stay suspended in the air. They can be transmitted at significant distances — that means room to room. “

He cited an example, like other international agencies like the CDC [Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US] and the ECDC [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control], that have admitted aerosol transmission is actually prevalent.

Given that the Government has not taken any action yet, according to Dr Allen, poses a serious threat to the country in general.

It was made known that the Hotel Grand Chancellor was evacuated and shut on Wednesday after a spread of the UK variant on its seventh floor. As of now, a major investigation is being carried out to delve into what triggered the cluster that has infected four returned travellers at the hotel thus far, including a hotel cleaner and her partner.

(Image source: ABC News)

Banks sound profit warnings on Covid-19 loan defaults


Companies

Banks sound profit warnings on Covid-19 loan defaults


Co-operative Bank branch along Haile Selassie Avenue, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

More commercial banks are now projecting a substantial fall in their full-year net profits for 2020 on account of Covid-induced economic disruptions that have weakened borrowers’ ability to repay loans.

Lenders say that they have had to significantly raise loan loss provisioning to reflect the economic fallout facing individuals and firms.

Co-operative Bank of Kenya #ticker:CO-OP has become the latest to inform its investors that it expects a material fall in full year earnings despite revenue from the mainstay business of lending registering a growth.

“Loan loss provisions have been much higher than in the previous year in appreciation of the challenges that businesses and households continue to grapple with in meeting their obligations to the bank,” said the lender.

Banking sector’s ratio of non-performing loans has risen from March’s 12.5 percent to 13.6 percent in October— the highest since August 2007 when it stood at 14.41 percent.

Profit fall will mark a rare cycle for Kenya’s banking sector which has been enjoying growth in earnings despite previous disruptions such as interest rate cap in 2016.

Other lenders that have announced expected decline in earnings include Standard Chartered #ticker:SCBK, Absa #ticker:ABSA, Diamond Trust #ticker:DTB, I&M Holdings #ticker:I&M, and NCBA #ticker:NCBA.

Banks have up to the end of March to release their results that were generated in a business environment that was disrupted since Kenya recording its first Covid-19 case on March 13 last year.

Top banks —KCB #ticker:KCB, Equity #ticker:EQTY, Co-operative, Absa, Stanbic #ticker:SBIC, DTB and StanChart –  saw a combined 30.2 percent or 22.56 billion decline in profitability in the nine months to September 2020.  

KCB contributed 36.7 percent of the fall followed by Absa Kenya (16.12 percent), Equity (10.8 percent) and NCBA with 9.25 percent of the Sh22.56 billion fall. Co-op Bank had the least contribution (4.92 percent) in the drop.

In terms of falls in net profit, Absa took the heaviest hit (65.4 percent), followed by NCBA (45.3 percent), KCB (43.2 percent), Stanchart (30.41 percent) and Stanbic with 30.1 percent dip.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has had to issue a circular asking all banks to revise their capital levels to reflect the prevailing economic hardships before making any dividend payment decision.

“The duration and extent of the pandemic remains uncertain and it is critical that these institutions remain resilient by strengthening their balance sheets through additional capital and adequate liquidity,” said CBK in mid-August.

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Disaster funding to flow for flooded north Queensland as warnings downgraded


After bringing storm surges, strong winds and heavy rain on its path from the gulf coast to its position off the coast of Townsville on Wednesday, the federal government has announced financial help would be made available through the joint commonwealth-state Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

“These remote councils up in Gulf Country have reported impacts from the floods such as uprooted trees, road damage from swollen rivers and isolation due to flooded access points, which has required a multi-agency response,” federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said.

A number of flood warnings remain in place for waterways across the state’s north.Credit:Department of Transport and Main Roads

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan added the “heavy and persistent” rain had caused widespread flooding, with roads closed and public infrastructure damaged.

“This DRFA funding will assist with the recovery from this latest event and alleviate the financial burden on these impacted councils,” Mr Ryan said. “The Commonwealth and Queensland governments are working together to ensure all impacted communities receive the recovery support they need.”

Both Walker Creek, near Normanton on the gulf coast, and the lower Herbert River at Halifax, east of Ingham, remained above major flood level on Wednesday afternoon. A number of warnings are in place for other waterways across the state’s north.

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Hinchinbrook Shire mayor Ramon Jayo said the situation around Ingham was “up there” with flood events of the past 10 years and could approach the highest levels experienced in 2018 or 2009 if the rain kept falling.

Queensland Rail warned the rainfall had caused “widespread impacts” to sections of a number of its long-distance network, with affected customers being contacted.

While the bureau downgraded its warning for the coastline on Wednesday afternoon, the threat of more localised rainbands associated with the weather system delivering heavy rain and flash flooding remained.

Severe storms with heavy rain, damaging winds and large hail are also on the cards for the south-east on Wednesday and Thursday, with falls of 20-40 millimetres possible.

Meteorologist Pieter Claassen said a southeasterly wind surge was likely to exacerbate this on Thursday, before shifting focus further north to the Central Coast and Highlands region.

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Warnings of increasing energy prices, unreliability as renewables flood market


Warnings of increasing energy prices, unreliability as renewables flood market

Australia’s Energy Security Board has warned energy prices may begin to rise and supply grow increasingly unreliable unless the nation’s grid undergoes urgent reform.

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Despite CDC warnings, millions of people flew over the holidays


TSA screenings dropped by 500 million in 2020 from the previous year.

“Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, the agency screened a total of approximately 324 million passengers throughout its airport security checkpoints,” TSA said in a news release. “That figure represents just 39 percent of the approximately 824 million total passengers screened in 2019.”

Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising people not to travel, TSA screened almost 18 million of those people over the holiday travel period. The last day of the travel period, Jan. 3, marked the highest checkpoint volume since the pandemic hit, with TSA screening 1,327,289 people.

The total number of holiday fliers was still down around 40% compared to last year, but it greatly exceeded predictions. AAA had forecasted only 2.94 million would travel by air between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3.

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci was worried that Christmas could be worse than Thanksgiving in terms of potential COVID-19 spread because Christmas is a longer holiday. After each summer holiday, the U.S. reported a significant rise in infections across the country, and experts say Thanksgiving has played a major role in the country’s largest viral surge to date.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said cold weather forcing people indoors paired with “the traveling associated with the holiday season is all of the ingredients that unfortunately make for a situation that is really terrible.”

“To have 300,000 cases in a given day and between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths per day is just terrible,” he said Sunday. “It’s something that we absolutely have got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that — turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures uniformly throughout the country with no exceptions.”

Although the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that air travel won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, the record-breaking development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has given some airline executives hope that demand will return sooner.

On Friday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told employees in an internal memo that Delta expects to achieve positive cash flow by the spring.

“The second phase will begin only when we reach a turning point with widely available vaccinations that spur a significant return to travel,” Bastian wrote, “particularly business travel.”

TSA said on Monday it “anticipates daily travel volumes will continue to rise steadily and follow seasonal patterns” but it “expects volume will remain well below pre-pandemic levels through most of 2021.”

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos and Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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