Ipswich Indoor Sports Centre became an evacuation centre.
Ipswich Indoor Sports Centre became an evacuation centre.

Police needed in evac centres

FLOOD evacuation centres in Ipswich were rife with drug use, theft and anti-social behaviour a report has revealed.

The Ipswich City Council’s (ICC) submission to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry depicts chaos inside evacuation centres during the height of January’s flood disaster.

The report analysed all aspects of ICC’s “preparedness” before the flood struck and found numerous faults, most notably in the set-up of the five ICC evacuation centres.

Two thousand residents fled to evacuation sites when the Bremer and Brisbane rivers broke their banks on January 11.

“With hindsight, the council considers that it could have taken additional steps prior to Tuesday 11 January 2011 to prepare for the possibility that several evacuation centres may be required,” the submission said.

“These steps would have involved the identification of evacuation centre sites and the taking of preliminary steps in relation to the resourcing of such centres if required.”

The report said staff at the Ipswich Showgrounds evacuation centre, where 600 residents were staying, feared that when the first load of food arrived in the early hours of Wednesday, January 12, trouble would arise.

“There were genuine concerns about the orderly distribution of such food,” the report said.

“This environment is inherently unstable and can lead to unrest.

“There were incidents of drug use, attempts to break into vehicles and other anti-social behaviour.

“There was no permanent police presence at the Ipswich evacuation centres on the evening of Tuesday, January 11.”

There were problems at other sites as well, with mental health patients left at Ipswich Grammar School’s evacuation centre without care staff.

The management of the evacuation sites was shared between Red Cross and ICC.

The report was created after the Commission called for written submissions relating to issues of flood preparedness relevant to next summer’s wet season.

It said no major incidents occurred at any of the Ipswich evac sites and the sudden nature of the floods was the main reason for logistical problems.

The submission also revealed that a State Government employee inspected an evacuation centre, measuring the width between beds and the temperature of fridges to see if the site met international standards.

The ICC criticised the government employee’s visit to the site.

“This seemed an unusual use of resources at a time when resources were so limited,” the report said.

Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale said ICC did the best they could under the circumstances.

“Initially we thought some 200 properties would be impacted, but not inundated in living areas, to having to evacuate more than a 1000 properties,” Cr Pisasale said.



Only eight Red Cross staff were on-site the first night and council staff and volunteers had to lend help.

Frail aged residents from nursing homes throughout Ipswich arrived at the Ipswich Showgrounds without care staff, medication or prescriptions.

ICC said future operational plans for large evacuation centres must include provision for a permanent police and security presence.

ICC said it should be the sole agency that has overall responsibility for provisioning evac centres with essentials such as food.

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