Fitroy Bridge Rockhampton during the 1918 flood.   Photo Courtesy the State Library of Queensland
Fitroy Bridge Rockhampton during the 1918 flood. Photo Courtesy the State Library of Queensland

Record flood at Rockhampton (1918)

Thursday, January 24 1918


RAINY conditions prevailed in Rockhampton again yesterday, but the rain was lighter than on any day since Sunday, when the tropical disturbance reached this part of the state. The registration for the 24 hours ended at 9am yesterday was 7.83 inches, increasing the rainfall for the three 24-hour periods to 21.78 inches. ...

The Fitzroy River continued to rise until between 10 and 11 o'clock yesterday forenoon, when the gauge at the High-Level Wharf indicated 29 feet 2 inches above low water of ordinary spring tide, or 11 ¼ inches above the highest point reached in the previous most serious flood, namely that of 1896. It remained stationary all day.

From this it is inferred that the flood has reached its limit. This is supported by the fact that the waters at Gracemere dropped a couple of feet in the course of the day and that the water surrounding the Rockhampton Waterworks had been receding since one o'clock in the afternoon.

Yesterday morning, the floodwaters were still flowing strongly over both sides of the northern end of the Fitzroy Bridge, the uncovered approach to which was narrowed down to a small strip. The overflow at the North Street end of the Alexandra Bridge was a few feet deep, while the water covered nearly the whole of Bolsover Street extending from the railway to the showgrounds, being well up into the trees inside Victoria Park. ...

The flood was over the road past the Harbour Board office, but did not go all the way to Derby Street except on the river side. A flooded area that caused a good deal of inconvenience was at the intersection of Derby and East streets. The water here was from 18 inches to 2 feet deep. In front of Messrs. Denham Brothers' premises, it was knee deep. A portion of Messrs. Denham Brothers' building was about 1 foot under water. ...

The floodwaters had risen much more rapidly than had been expected and it was a matter of shift and save as much as possible, the buildings being well stocked. Last night, goods were placed on special planks.

"There is no gainsaying the fact,” Mr. Macaulay added, "that our loss through the flood conditions will be substantial, but nothing in comparison with the unfortunate outlook last night when we first started to remove our goods.” ...

From the garden roof of Messrs. Harris and Company's and from the tower at the Criterion Hotel, the latter place especially, a magnificent panorama of the flood in the river may be obtained. The sight is an impressive, yet withal melancholy, one. Practically in almost every direction, there is nothing but water.

Looking towards the south one sees the long line of boatsheds and sheds on the wharves, only the roofs being visible. Quite a number of craft of various kind are at anchor, rising and falling to the current.

Down at the bend the slaughterhouses and buildings at Messrs. Pattison and Company's yards can be seen, an oasis as it were in the swirling waters.

There is no land for a considerable distance from these buildings. Back from here there is a vast expanse of water which has submerged the country adjacent to Depot Hill and extends as far back as the eye can reach.

Visibility yesterday was bad owing to the rain.

The new railway workshops can be seen, rising apparently from the water's edge. A great stretch of the lower end of Quay Street is under water, and the residences there are flooded out areas, also the gasworks, which are completely isolated. Of the wharves, not a trace is visible.

Turning to view the north side, and looking across the racecourse, a long vista of flood water is opened up, and it extends until it is merged in the timber.

The racecourse is flooded to a considerable depth, the buildings standing out in the water. There is a considerable depth of water in the caretaker's cottage.

The water yesterday afternoon was almost level with the top of the fence at the cricket ground.

The North Rockhampton Council Chambers and houses in the vicinity are flooded out and access to them can only be gained by boat. In Wharf Street the floodwaters are in the houses for some distance. The offices of the Livingstone Shire Council are surrounded. ...


QUITE a large number of people have been rescued since the search parties commenced operations on Tuesday morning, most of them from dangerous positions. Some, however, were very obstinate, preferring to remain in their isolated homes even when boats came to their assistance.

A lady seventy-five years of age had to be almost forced into a boat, and it was only after some argument that she was induced to remain in the town. An old couple at West Rockhampton were, it seemed, even prepared to take to the roof if necessary rather than quit when a boat approached. ...

Mrs. O'Neill, the wife of a lengthsman, and her two daughters, one a young woman and the other a girl, had an exciting experience while driving a pony in a sulky along the Gracemere Road almost opposite the lower end of the Upper Dawson Road on Tuesday afternoon. ...

The pony was swept off the road by the current into deep water, and the sulky capsized, precipitating the two young ladies into the water; but they succeeded in clinging to the struggling pony.

How Mrs. O'Neill got clear is not certain; but she left the vehicle before the accident and reached land. Mr. J. Hume was an eye-witness of the occurrence, and, though he took no credit himself, it is stated that he rescued one of the young ladies who were some distance out in the stream. A boat fortunately came to the assistance of the other. ...

Mr. Peter Swanson, who was accompanied by men named Alexander Munro and Bates saved an elderly lady named Mrs. Robinson from certain death by drowning in her house, which is situated between Frogmore Lagoon and the Woolwash. As the bow of the boat was rowed through the front door, there was a feeble response to a call.

The men immediately got out of the boat and waded neck deep in water into the house to Mrs. Robinson, who was lying on a table placed on top of another table. They managed to lift her down, holding her above their heads until they reached the boat. A big dog that was swimming round the table attacked them fiercely, but they seized it and saved it.

Losses of stock are reported, including 25 head of horses belonging to Mr. T. Davis, Snr., and poultry and goats. When the floodwaters threatened a large number of cattle and horses were removed to other places, Mr. P Rosel taking several hundred cattle, including calves, across the Fitzroy Bridge and safely through the stream on the other side.

Owing to the flooding of the mains in Quay and East Streets, the gas supply was completely cut off yesterday. The water rose so high at 10 o'clock on Tuesday night that the boiler fires had to be extinguished. Stationary machinery was then operated until it was under water early yesterday morning. ... As soon as the water recedes and the mains have been pumped out, the gas supply will be restored.

It was reported yesterday that a quarter of a mile of the telegraph line was down at Yaamba and communication with the North had, therefore, been interrupted.

The only line to Townsville yesterday was from Brisbane, via Charleville, Cloncurry, Winton, and Mount Surprise. All the lines between Rockhampton and Brisbane were working, but none were in operation between Rockhampton and the North.

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