Hundreds of thousands of cattle died in flood-ravaged Queensland after the defence force refused to deliver life-saving hay drops.
The state was hit with two years worth of rain in less than two weeks, turning roads into river and paddocks into lakes.
Bodies of the dead cattle crowded fields as floodwaters receded, the animals having either starved to death or been too badly battered by the elements.
Farmers across flood ravaged Queensland could be left millions of dollars out of pocket as devastating floods leave behind destroyed crops, livestock and livelihoods
Farmers expected supply drops of hay last week to feed what was left of their herds, but the ADF refused to deliver the tonnes of supplies on safety grounds.
Deliveries were organised as early as Tuesday, but due to the mix up were never transported to where they were needed.
‘There was an initial problem in terms of fodder drops happening outside of the local disaster management committee,’ Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said.
‘Industry had advised exactly where to drop the hay. We had the hay available Tuesday and had it wrapped as the air force asked us to do.’
However, the ADF then said it did ‘not carry or transport hay in aircraft as it is a fire and safety hazard’.
The big wet has dumped nearly two-years worth of rain in little more than a week in parts of the sunshine state as a punishing monsoon trough made its way across Queensland
Central western Queensland farmer Mr Ren Field recorded more than 835mm of rain over a ten day period, and looked to his livestock to assess the real damage of the storm
Instead it delivered aviation fuel so farmers could share their own supplies or picking up from depots set up by AgForce that were donated by farmers around Australia.
More than 20 million hectares of farmland is affected by the floods and 146 farmers in the crisis zone are begging for help.
‘We are expecting hundreds of thousands in terms of stock losses,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
‘This will be heartbreaking to these communities that have been experiencing years of drought, only to see that turn into a torrential inundation which threatens now their very livelihoods in the complete other direction.’
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk Friday spoke of seeing a ‘sea of dead cattle’ when she toured one region on Thursday.
Farmer Rachael Anderson and her husband, who manage Eddington cattle station near Julia Creek township, said 800 of their 1500 cattle were still unaccounted for.
‘The cattle didn’t have anywhere else to go… We’ve got a railway line close to us and the whole railway line is just tangled with dead cattle,’ Anderson told AFP.
‘If the floodwater wasn’t enough to kill them, then those that got to higher areas were exposed to elements that were not conducive like rain hitting them at 60 kilometres an hour. They can’t survive them long term.’
While hundreds of homes have been damaged, the farmers are turning to the wrecked crops and livestock to tally up the damage
Ms Anderson – who had been hand-feeding cattle over the past few months amid the crippling drought – said there were also many dead kangaroos as well as birds that were falling dead on the ground.
About half of Australia’s 25-million strong cattle herd is bred in Queensland state, and graziers say the floods – described as a once-a-century event – could devastate their industry.
‘This will finish a lot of people, there’s some people who’ve lost everything, every beast they own, so there’s no income at all,’ farmer William McMillan told the ABC.
Eddington cattle station owner Rae Stretton said that whatever cattle the flood did not wipe out, would have to be put down because of the grim conditions.
Jane McMillan said she had probably lost 40 to 50 per cent of her livestock, but considered herself more fortunate than others who had lost everything.
‘People have lost their income for the next three years,’ she said.
The distraught farmer said it was not just livestock that was impacted, but also the native wildlife, sheep, horses and kangaroos.
‘They’re all dying, they’re dying from drowning in the floodwaters … or the cold wind’.
Eddington cattle station owner Rae Stretton said that whatever cattle the flood did not wipe out, would have to be put down because of the grim conditions
Elsewhere in the north Queensland city, several suburbs remain partially flooded as mopping up operations continue in the tropical heat.
Homeless families now face a long wait for their flood-damaged homes to be repaired after 10 days of catastrophic flooding.
More than 730 homes have been found to be severely damaged and 252 completely uninhabitable following about 1,500 damage assessments, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Thursday.
Jane McMillan said she had probably lost 40 to 50 per cent of her livestock, but considered herself more fortunate than other who had lost everything
‘That is sad news for families,’ she told reporters.
About 20,000 homes are believed to have sustained water impact in the Townsville area.
It’s pushed the damage bill from the near-citywide floods to $124 million and rising, the Insurance Council says.
‘As of 10am (on Thursday), insurers (HAD) received 10,064 claims, with insurance losses estimated at $124 million,’ the council’s Campbell Fuller said.
He also warned that scammers were active in Townsville, with fake tradies going door to door offering building inspections and repairs for cash before taking the money and running.
There have been more than 16,000 claims for personal hardship assistance with more than $1.9 million paid out so far.
Even as Townsville continues cleaning up after the floods, more flood waters are washing across west and northwest Queensland.
With cold winds reaching up to 50km/h, farmers are having a hard time dropping fodder to the remaining livestock
And just as farmers begin to assess the damage, weather forecasters have warned the monsoon trough could develop into a cyclone