An elevated view looking over the Fitzroy River during the 1918 flood.
An elevated view looking over the Fitzroy River during the 1918 flood.

Fitzroy River becomes stationary (1918)

Saturday 2nd February 1918


AT dawn yesterday Rockhampton was enveloped in a dense fog. Then, after a very muggy forenoon, a thunderstorm broke over the town, commencing about half-past one o'clock in the afternoon and ceasing about three o'clock, in which 0.63 in. of rain fell.

The Fitzroy River at Rockhampton remained at 31 ft. 11 in. above the level of low water of ordinary spring tides from two o'clock till five o'clock yesterday morning. By one o'clock in the afternoon the water had dropped 1 in., and is remained at that mark until eleven o'clock that night. By two o'clock in the morning it had risen half an inch, making the height 31 ft. 10 ½ in. Information received from Yaamba at nine o'clock last night showed that the stream there was stationary at 56 ft. 9 ½ in. above summer level.

Yesterday crowds of people again thronged the various points in the city proper most affected by the flood waters, particularly the vicinity of the Fitzroy Bridge, where the water was held by rows of bags of earth from two to five deep from the corner of the turnstile on the upstream side to the river to prevent it crossing the approach. At night the conditions were dismal. Nevertheless, many people came to town as usual on a Friday night.

Consequent on the continuance of the flood, there have been shortages in other ways. Fruit, for instance, is altogether unprocurable. In fact, most of the shops were sold out of all kinds of fruit two or three days ago. The same remarks will apply to vegetables. Eggs are very dear, commanding as much as 3 shillings sixpence per dozen. Harvest on preserved eggs, however, are advertised for sale at 1 shilling sixpence, per dozen.

What was fully expected, with strong currents running round and underneath houses in the flooded areas, is beginning to take shape. The complete removal of houses from blocks in the municipality are, so far as can be ascertained, rare; but in parts where the current is feet deep that is inevitable. The house of Mr. Taylor, on the Jellicoe Estate, was lifted off high blocks, carried across the railway near Yeppen, a distance of about ten chains, underneath the telephone wire, and deposited on the other side of the line almost as squarely as if a first-class carpenter had been on the job. The Yeppen railway station building has been overturned and the semaphores there have been displaced. The residence of the caretaker of the Rifle Range, North Rockhampton, has also slipped off the foundation posts, while a house near the slaughter-yards of Messrs. Pattison and Co. has disappeared.


Streams of motor launches and dinghies traversed the flooded areas on the outskirts of the town and in the main streets yesterday, Mr. T. Bedford's motor launch Valkyrie, 27 ft. in length, with a 10 ft. 6 in. beam, driven by a six horse-power Perfection engine, and drawing 1 ft. 6 in. of water unloaded, had no difficulty in coming round the chemist's shop of Mr. E.N. Symons at the corner of William and East Streets and past the Canada Cycle, Motor Company's shop and the photographic studio to the premises of Messrs. Tucker and Nankivell, under-takers, following the line of the channel, with twenty passengers. The same launch took on board small oil engines at the intersection, and, in the course of the day, under instructions from the City Council, transported one of these to the Waterworks to lift the water out of the pump-wells. A telephone line repairer accompanied Mr. Bedford to establish telephone communication with the works. So deep was the water that the Valkyrie just touched one of the telephone wires at the Yeppen Crossing.


Yesterday evening there were approximately 700 refugees, mostly women and children, housed in the four centrally situated buildings, over 300 being located in the School of Arts, where Mrs. C Harden was in charge. Mr. Rowland Gant donated 1 pound for clothing for small children there and also offered a load of firewood, which was most acceptable. Milk was supplied by Mrs. D.P. O'Brien and Mr. H. Hill. Seven of the families came from North Rockhampton on Thursday night. Ten families had their beds on the staging. The verandas were converted into dining rooms. Clothing, especially for small children, is urgently needed. At the Soldiers' Rest and Recreation Rooms Mrs. W.N. Jaggard had about an equal number of married and single men, eighty-one all told, under her care, twenty-two seeking shelter the previous night. Clothes are required for them. There were over 100 refugees yesterday at St. Paul's school-room, which is supervised by the Mayoress, Mrs. T.W. Kingel, who receives daily for the women and children twelve quarts of mild from Mrs. Mackay, Depot Hill, and as much honey as can be used. Mrs. Stenlake has forwarded two boxes of meat pies, Mrs. Highatt a case of apples, Mr. H.V. Hinton a case of pineapples and bananas, and Medcrafts, Limited, a large tin of biscuits. The Mayoress specially appeals for clothing. Eighty-four people, including fifty-six children, were in residence yesterday at the Technical College, two large and two small rooms being used on the ground floor and two on the top floor. The Minister for Public Instruction, the Hon. H.F. Hardacre, who visited all the institutions in the course of the day, left with Mrs. H.L. Hartley, the supervisor at the College, an order for bread and meat, allowing her to use her own discretion in the distribution. A stove for the inmates has been installed at the College. It has been suggested by Mrs. Hartley that a local school teacher, particularly a kindergarten instructor, might visit the College for, day, an hour each afternoon for the benefit of the children.

For the last fortnight the police in Rockhampton have exerted every effort to cope with the difficulties arising from the flood, and none have worked harder in rescuing people from perilous positions, sometimes being out for two and three days at a stretch. Two constables returned yesterday afternoon after rescuing about fifty people in the neighbourhoods of Gracemere, Scrubby Creek, and Fairy Bower. A high-blocked house at Gracemere was the concentration point for almost the whole of the Gracemere Chinese settlement, the number of which is thirty, including Mrs. See and her large family. Dead pigs and potatoes and pumpkins were seen at nearly every turn.

The rescue party that left for the South Yaamba district to inquire as to the safety of Messrs. T.E. Geddes, Mackenzie Brothers, R Smith, B Smith, W Smith, and Fullerton found all well and with provisions. All the country was under water.

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