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What we know today, Wednesday March 16

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More than 100,000 homes in four South Australian council areas are at risk from flooding, according to a climate risk report released today in the wake of the extreme floods in New South Wales and Queensland this month.

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Flood risk warning for SA councils

More than 100,000 homes in four South Australian council areas are at risk from riverine flooding, according to a climate risk report released today in the wake of the extreme floods in New South Wales and Queensland this month.

Climate Valuation, a group of climate risk analysts, has identified more than one million properties across 30 local government areas that are exposed to low, moderate or high-risk riverine flooding.

Queensland has the most local government areas in the top 30 with 10, followed closely by Victoria (eight), NSW (five), South Australia (four), Western Australia (two) and Tasmania (one).

More than 90,000 of the 103,000 properties at risk in SA are in Adelaide’s western suburbs.

About 15,000 of the SA properties are listed as ‘high risk’ in Charles Sturt (6341 high-risk properties), Port Adelaide Enfield (3745), Mid Murray (3399) and Alexandrina (2403) council areas.

Major waterways in Charles Sturt and PAE include the River Torrens, West Lakes and the Port River.

Alexandrina includes the River Murray’s lower lakes and the Angas and Finniss Rivers while the Mid Murray region takes in a huge stretch of the Murray from Mannum up to Morgan.

Nationally, Brisbane has the greatest number of properties exposed to a high risk of riverine flooding, with 47,091 of 692,121 in that category.

Other high-risk areas include Gold Coast (23,115), Greater Shepparton (21,030), Ballina (8341), Wangaratta (7924), Port Phillip (7263), Tweed (7037) and Logan (4922).

The northern NSW town of Lismore, which has endured record flooding in the past month, has 2247 high-risk properties, many of which are likely uninsurable or so exposed it is unaffordable to do so.

Climate Valuation chief executive Karl Mallon said those living in highly flood-prone suburbs needed to come to grips with the reality they may face similar scenarios in future.

“It’s unfair and unacceptable to leave people in harm’s way when we know the high-risk addresses, and we know which can be protected and which will need to be moved,” Dr Mallon said.

“Just as governments have to deal with reducing emissions, they must provide leadership and financial support for communities to prepare for the climate impacts that are here and worsening.”

Natural disasters are already estimated to cost Australia an average $38 billion a year and that figure could rise as high as $94 billion by 2060 under a high-emissions scenario, according to research from Deloitte Access Economics.

Climate Valuation’s own sums show climate change-fuelled riverine flooding is expected to precipitate a $170 billion drop in Australian property values by the middle of this century, an equivalent loss of $45,000 for every exposed property.

It wants further federal government investment on risk-mitigation strategies to avoid disaster-driven property devaluation.

“Planning codes must be changed, building codes need to be upgraded and a massive grants program will be needed to overhaul Australia’s high-risk housing so that it is ready to cope with the reality of climate change,” Dr Mallon said.

No changes to SA COVID restrictions as hospital numbers grow

Police commissioner and state coordinator Grant Stevens has ruled out any immediate change to South Australia’s remaining COVID-19 mask mandates and close contact rules, after the state recorded a spike in hospitalisations.

The COVID-ready committee met on Tuesday to consider easing South Australia’s mask rules for public transport and indoor public venues as well as 14-day quarantine periods for family close contacts.

But Stevens said it was decided to keep the current arrangements in place after he signed off on a raft of significant changes last week, including scrapping all indoor density and home gathering caps and removing a long-standing ban on dancing and singing.

“It was decided to monitor the impact those changes have on case numbers and hospitalisations before introducing any further easing of restrictions,” he said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The decision came after SA Health reported three deaths, 2380 new cases and a rise in hospital numbers on Tuesday.

There are now 129 people hospitalised with the virus, up from 113 yesterday and 88 late last week. Stevens has cited the hospital’s system capacity to manage cases as one of the most important factors authorities take into account when mulling whether to ease restrictions.

The number of new cases also increased by more than 300 from Monday but is less than a high of 2590 infections reached earlier this month on March 10.

UniSA biostatistician and former WHO epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman has warned that the new BA.2 subvariant of Omicron will likely see South Australia’s COVID-19 cases doubling from where they are currently.

Ambos union reports another death waiting for an ambulance

A man in his 50s has died after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance last night when a crew should have arrived in 16 minutes, the South Australian paramedics union says.

The Ambulance Employees Association said at 11.05pm there were still 20 priority two emergencies – triaged for assistance within 16 minutes – for which there was no ambulance to send, with the ambulance service calling another Opstat White event.

“A male in his 50’s has tragically died tonight, waiting for an ambulance,” the union tweeted at 3am.

“The P2 case waited TWO hours. Call from scene, upgraded to a P1.

“SAAS (South Australian Ambulance Service) arrived shortly after (outside P1 timeframe) & were unable to resuscitate.

“Another life lost. Crews, Comms staff devastated.”

It comes just a day after the union reported that a 94-year-old patient died after waiting 56 minutes for an ambulance on Monday and a 20-year-old died on the same day after a wait of 45 minutes.

The SA Ambulance Service has launched an investigation into both of those deaths, after apologising a week earlier for two other deaths involving people who waited longer for an ambulance to arrive than they were triaged.

Labor set to win state election outright: poll

A new opinion poll has Labor poised for a strong victory at Saturday’s state election, as Premier Steven Marshall and Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas prepare to go head-to-head today for the final in-person debate of the campaign.

The Advertiser-YouGov poll published this morning shows Labor clearly ahead of the Liberals 56 per cent to 44 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

Malinauskas is ahead of Marshall as the state’s preferred premier at 45 per cent support compared to 40 per cent.

That could be enough to have the opposition pick up as many as six seats, well past the four it needs to form a minority government with a Labor-aligned independent, and the five it needs to form a majority.

The result, if replicated uniformly on election day, would see Labor take out the marginal electorates of Newland, King, Adelaide, Elder and put first-term Liberal MP Matt Cowdrey at risk in his western suburbs seat of Colton.

The poll of 835 voters, conducted between March 7 and 13, also showed Labor extending its lead from a Newspoll in February which had the party in front by six percentage points.

Similarly, an Australia Institute-Dynata poll released at the start of the election campaign had projected the ALP on 51 per cent of the projected two-party statewide vote, to the Government’s 49 per cent.

Marshall and Malinauskas will face off in the final debate of the campaign on Wednesday at 4.30pm, this time taking questions from undecided voters.

European leaders to visit bombarded Kyiv

Three European prime ministers are travelling to Kyiv, marking the first foreign leaders’ visits to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion and a symbol of Ukraine’s success so far in fending off Russia’s assault.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki announced plans for the visit, saying they and Slovenia’s Janez Jansa would meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday. Zelenskyy’s office confirmed the plans.

“The purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the Czech PM said, adding the three leaders would present a broad support package for Ukraine.

Morawiecki’s aide, Michal Dwoczyk, told reporters the delegation had crossed the Polish-Ukraine border and was heading to Kyiv by train, in what the Polish leader said was a historic mission.

“It is our duty to be where history is forged. Because it’s not about us, but about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world free from tyranny,” Morawiecki said.

The three leaders will arrive in a city that is still under bombardment, where around half of the 3.4 million population has fled and many are spending nights sheltering in underground stations. Two powerful explosions rocked the capital before dawn on Tuesday, and emergency services said two people died when an apartment building was struck.

Nearly three weeks into a war which Western countries say Moscow believed it would win within days, Europe’s biggest invasion force since World War II has been halted at the gates of Kyiv.

Armoured columns of Russian forces have failed to capture any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities, despite bombardment that has reduced some residential areas to rubble.

Hosting foreign dignitaries in his own capital would be a remarkable symbolic success for Zelenskyy, who rejected offers to evacuate early in the war, staying under bombardment to rally his nation with nightly messages from inside the city.

In his most confident public statement yet, Zelenskiy called on Russian forces to surrender, saying they and their officers already knew that the war was hopeless.

“Russian conscripts! Listen to me very carefully. Russian officers! You’ve already understood everything: You will not take anything from Ukraine. You will take lives. There are a lot of you. But your life will also be taken. But why should you die? What for? I know that you want to survive,” he said.

NZ readies new Trans-Tasman bubble

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce a new reopening strategy for New Zealand, with preferential treatment for Australia reportedly set to begin from next month.

The country has held firm to tight border policies through the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining a largely shut border for two years despite opening a brief Trans-Tasman bubble last year.

However, the arrival of the infectious Omicron variant has put paid to the need for a wall to keep the virus out.

For the past fortnight, Kiwis in Australia and further abroad have been able to come home without quarantine or self-isolation on arrival.

That will soon extend to foreigners, with at least two NZ media outlets reporting they will be allowed to visit from next month.

Newsroom reports the border will be flung open to Australians in time for next month’s school holidays, with other countries to follow.

All travellers to New Zealand are expected to be fully vaccinated.

Australia face difficult bowling task against Pakistan

Australia remains bullish it can take a 1-0 series lead against Pakistan, with the tourists needing eight wickets to win on the final day in Karachi in what shapes as a critical day for Pat Cummins’ fledgling captaincy.

Pakistan will resume at 2-192 with captain Babar Azam unbeaten on 102 and Abdullah Shafique not out 71, after the Australian captain set the hosts an improbable 506 runs to win.

Cummins’ tactics have been scrutinised throughout the fixture at Karachi’s National Stadium, a venue where Australia have never won in eight previous Tests.

Did Cummins, in his sixth Test as skipper, bat too long as Australia’s first innings of 9(dec)-566 stretched through 189 overs and into day three?

Why didn’t he enforce the follow-on after skittling Pakistan for 148?

Will he regret extending Australia’s second innings for 35 minutes on day four, when they already held a whopping 489-run overnight lead?

Victory will justify all decisions. But the outcome is likely to hinge on the first session on Wednesday’s final day, according to Australia’s batting coach Michael Di Venuto.

Cummins and his bowling colleagues will begin the day with a ball just two overs old.

The Australians expect the ball to reverse swing about 20 overs in, before the leather becomes softer and easier for batsmen to handle.

“Both while it’s shiny in the first few overs and when reverse swing comes in probably 20 overs in … with the harder ball, that is going to be a critical period of play for us,” Di Venuto said after day four.

Di Venuto said Australia “absolutely” remained in a winning position.

“It’s still going to be hard work, there is no doubt about that,” he said.

“But still there is variable bounce, there’s going to be a little bit more turn  …it’s going to be an interesting day’s play tomorrow and another tough one for us.”

– With AAP and Reuters

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