October 18, 2018
World

Hobart counts cost of damage as flooding clean-up continues

The clean-up from Hobart's worst storm in decades is underway, with the total damage bill estimated to run into many millions of dollars.

The extreme weather event, combining heavy rains, wild winds and thunderstorms, saw cars swept down streets in central Hobart and businesses and homes inundated in the early hours of Friday.

The insurance arm of the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania (RACT Insurance) said it had already received a record number of claims, with 400 lodged by Friday afternoon, and more expected over the weekend.

The company said in a statement that it expected its claims bill could exceed $1 million.

Nearly 2,000 homes were still without power early on Saturday morning, with about 1,120 in the north and the rest in the south.

Fears of a heavy deluge hitting the state's east coast overnight did not eventuate, although the rain continues to fall in the area, with readings of 63 millimetres at Gray and 41 millimetres at Fingal.

There are no reports of further damage, and conditions are easing for the weekend as the system moves across the state's east coast.

TasNetworks spokesman Dan Sinkovitz said crews would begin work on restoring power on Saturday when it was safe.

"Overnight we had to reduce our response so that we could give crews a rest, so that they could start work again this morning," he said.

The weather bureau's Glen Perrin said more severe weather was not expected across Tasmania this weekend.

The Royal Hobart Hospital re-opened six beds which were closed yesterday after some weather damage.

The hospital's emergency department reported it did not treat any casualties of the deluge, flooding or winds.

Boy plucked to safety

Four people were rescued from floodwaters on Friday, including a 15-year-old boy who suffered mild hypothermia and had to be winched to safety by the police rescue helicopter.

The State Emergency Service received about 400 calls for help in less than 24 hours.

The Insurance Council declared the event catastrophic and has already received more than 1,000 claims.

Interior of the Brookfield reception centre wrecked by flooding

Julia Ridgers, who runs Margate restaurant Brookfield Shed, had to shelter upstairs with her family while chest-deep water flowed through the premises downstairs.

Her father braved the waters to make sure the electricity was turned off before joining the rest of the family upstairs.

Storm damage in southern Tasmania declared a 'catastrophe'

Council repair bill

The South Hobart rubbish tip is one of the worst-hit areas, with the Hobart City Council expecting the damage there alone will be several million dollars.

"There's a lot of infrastructure that's been destroyed and it will take anywhere from six, nine, 12 months to restore," Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie said.

"They'll still be operating of course, but it will just be a bit more difficulty to manoeuvre.

"For now we're saying to people the tip will be closed and is going to remain closed until Tuesday at least.

"It's closed in the interest of public safety. You just cannot drive on parts of the road in the tip area, it's just too dangerous."

Alderman Christie said concrete barriers in Hobart's rivulet were critical in limiting damage elsewhere.

Damage to the Hobart Rivulet wall which lead to flooding in the Hobart CBD

"They were designed to stop fast-floating boulders and debris like logs from coming down the rivulet into the city," he said.

"They have worked and actually made the situation a lot safer and virtually saved the city."

All of Hobart's sporting grounds were closed by the city council, cancelling all football games.

An aerial shot of a house which had its roof removed

Weather records broken

It is only the fifth time since 1893 that Hobart had recorded more than 100mm of rain in a day. Mount Wellington recorded 236 millimetres.

In the 24 hours to 9:00am on Friday, 129 millimetres of rain fell in Hobart, a record for May.

The weather bureau's senior climatologist, Blair Trewin, said it was not an extreme event by mainland standards, but was "very significant" for south-east Tasmania.

"Certainly it is at least a once-in-a-generation, at least if not a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Hobart had other similarly sized rainfall events in:

  • 1909 (127 mm)
  • June 1954 (147 mm)
  • September 1957 (156mm — Hobart's wettest day on record)
  • April 1960 (132mm — water ran knee-high in city streets and the army was called to help)

Car parks and hallways flooded in Hobart.

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