Trial by fire, flood, and crocodile

Floods have driven freshwater crocodiles into Australia’s streets

Trial by fire, flood, and crocodile

While raging brush fires continue to devastate southeastern Australia, the northern state of Queensland is trying to recover after being overrun by giant crocodiles and snakes fleeing the worst flooding in years.

An area of more than one million square kilometres was declared a disaster zone last week after flash floods damaged almost 3,000 homes in the area. The town of Ingham was completely cut off by the monsoon, which drove freshwater crocodiles into the streets and snakes into residents’ bathrooms.

A five-year-old boy was snatched by a four-metre-long crocodile while out walking on Sunday and is feared dead. In another incident, one man was killed and another is missing after the car they were riding in was swept off a flooded road. Several other crocodiles were spotted around the Gulf of Carpentaria late last week, and one was run over by a car in the city of Townsville.

Local residents aren’t taking their frustration out on the reptiles, though. The injured crocodile is being nursed back to health after suffering cuts and bruises, while the parents of five-year-old Jeremy Doble have asked authorities not to harm crocodiles caught in traps near where their son disappeared.

Water levels are now receding, and the focus is on trucking food and supplies into the area and preventing further fallout. “There are bigger issues of making sure there isn’t contamination, that there’s spraying,” Queensland Gov. Penelope Wensley told local reporters. “The military is going to come in and help with that, so that we are acting in a way to prevent any emergence of disease.”

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Victoria, the death toll from raging brush fires has been climbing and is now expected to exceed 200. The government has made more than $1 billion available in disaster relief, and there are reports of flood victims giving their assistance payments to the even more desperate fire victims in the south.