19 Nov 2008

Storm recovery to take months, Queenslanders warned

9:57 pm on 19 November 2008

Families hit by the super storm that swept through part of Australia have been warned it could be months until they can return home.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told hard-hit families in Brisbane to prepare for a long wait as the bill for the storm was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

An army of 2,000 volunteers, emergency services officers and soldiers on Wednesday continued the clean-up from the storm, which left 4,000 homes damaged and at least 85 uninhabitable.

Ms Bligh has announced the formation of a task force headed by building industry leader John Gaskin, who led the recovery after flooding in another part of the state, Mackay, earlier this year.

She warned the recovery would continue into next year for "many hundreds of families".

Visiting a community recovery centre in the inner Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove, Ms Bligh said more than $A250,000 in cash had been given out in 24 hours. She expected the recovery centre to remain open for at least a few weeks.

More rain forecast

About 100 home owners are awaiting the arrival of tarpaulins amid forecasts of more rain.

Emergency Management Queensland executive director Frank Pagano said he hoped the storm damage would not be compounded by more poor weather.

"Expect and plan for the worst and pray for the best," he said.

Electricity has been restored to all but a handful of the 220,000 homes and businesses that lost power during Sunday's storm.

Insurance Council of Australia Queensland president Bradley Heath said at least $A100 million in claims had been lodged by home and business owners. However, he expected the final damage bill to be in the "hundreds of millions" when considering power lines, schools, and other facilities.

About 1,300 emergency services staff from Queensland and New South Wales are working alongside 900 soldiers in the clean-up effort.