Brisbane endures start of devastating floods

The start of the wet season in the Australian tropics is typically marked by the southward movement of the ‘monsoon trough’, which usually makes its presence felt early January. This time however, this system had already established itself by December 1973, producing heavy rainfall across Queensland, the Northern Territory and tropical Western Australia. These heavy falls brought about well-above average totals and widespread flooding across the region. Tropical Cyclone Wanda then crossed the Queensland coast on 24 January with torrential falls of around 200mm dumped on Brisbane over the following 18 hour period. In the span of just three days, Brisbane received around 75 percent of its average rainfall for an entire year with between 500-900mm recorded in various suburbs. At its peak, the river at Brisbane Post Office was recording a height of 6.6m, with widespread scenes of devastation around the city as homes were swept away and buildings inundated by flood waters. During the worst of the flood, the Centenary Bridge was under threat when a large gravel barge became jammed under it at Jindalee. The barge had to be deliberately sunk to save the bridge. By the time the floods had retreated 16 people had been killed and 300 injured while 8, 000 people had become homeless.