Gulf casualties rise as region remains awash

North west flood continues to impact Gulf country


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HIGHER GROUND: Calvin Gallagher helps to guide cattle to safety from Sawtell Creek about 20km from Normanton. The cattle swam 4km to reach higher ground. Photo: Mick Gallagher.

HIGHER GROUND: Calvin Gallagher helps to guide cattle to safety from Sawtell Creek about 20km from Normanton. The cattle swam 4km to reach higher ground. Photo: Mick Gallagher.

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The Gulf towns of Normanton and Karumba remain inundated and are fighting to save their cattle.

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UP to 100,000 cattle are feared perished around Normanton and Karumba as flood waters from the north west flow out into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

While the hardest hit areas in north west Queensland continue to dry out, the emergency remains at its peak in the Gulf.

Towns have been isolated for almost two weeks as floodwater from the swollen Flinders River joins the Norman River to inundate the region, which will likely remain isolated for at least another 10 days.

The Gallagher family own three properties in the Normanton area and one at Richmond, and also run Gallagher Butchering.

At the height of the flood, Cal Gallagher jumped in a tinny with his dad Mick in a helicopter overhead to swim a mob of cattle to safety as the Sawtell Creek rose.

The cattle swam for four kilometres to find higher ground.

But as Ashley Gallagher, who is also a councillor for the Carpentaria Shire said, their other livestock was not so lucky.

At on Uralla Station, about 100km south of Normanton on the Saxby River, he estimated there would be lucky to be 10 survivors out of the 1000 head in one paddock.

“There’d be more than 100,000 dead in the shire," Cr Gallagher said.

“At this stage because the water is barely dropping everyone is still busy with fodder drops.

“When the water goes down that will be people can get back to see what’s left.

“Personally, Uralla is under metres of water out there on the Saxby and one down at Richmond, they have all be impacted.

“We’d have more than 1300 dead, on one block at Uralla we had 1000 head and there’d be about 10 left.”

The family had moved their weaners to the property as the first rain fell, unaware of the disaster that was about to unfold.

The losses are expected to be high at their property near Richmond, where they carted six decks of cattle at the end of last year.

Nola Gallagher said while those cattle had made it to a ridge-line, all had died from either bogging or pneumonia.

Mrs Gallagher said the deaths would impact the family butchering business also and she expected the region would take years to recover.

“We were lucky enough to bring in this years killers, but next year will be a different story. There will be nothing to sell for the next two to three years,” Mrs Gallagher said.

Carpentaria Shire Mayor Jack Bawden said flooding in the region was extremely widespread.

“In the Flinders area it’s extremely widespread, I guess it’s about 60km across the river itself, it is total devastation," Cr Wharton said.

He estimated about 75 per cent of cattle in the Gulf area would have been lost to the flooding.

“If you draw a line from Mount Isa to Townsville up from the Tropic of Capricorn there would be six to seven million head of cattle, it is pretty drastic," Cr Wharton said.

“Realistically, this is going to affect the whole of north Queensland.

“Our priority at the moment is still looking after the live ones until they can be moved.”

The Australian Defence Force is continuing to drop fodder and aviation fuel in the region.

Cattle Council of Australia CEO Margot Andrae said while the recovery was commencing in the north-west, the crisis was continuing to unfold in the Gulf.

"The losses are climbing and we know that more cattle are still dying us we move up into the Gulf," Ms Andrae said.

"In terms of numbers we don't know. The current prediction is about 500,000 and the biggest thing we're facing is carcase disposal in the immediate term.

"As much as we want a strong industry and to keep rebuilding, these producers and communities had a pretty traumatic event and we need to make sure they are supported and look after themselves as much as their animals.

"It's really about making sure people don't just forget and move on.

"This was a natural disaster on a huge scale and we need to not only learn from it but recognise that we are on a long road to recovery."

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