Flood waters swamping Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, peaked Thursday more than a metre (three feet) below the high that officials had at first feared, meteorologists said.
The Brisbane River, which runs through the centre of the besieged city of two million people, peaked at 4.46 metres (14.6 feet) just before 5:30am (1930 GMT Wednesday), sparing the city further devastation.
“Hydrologists, they do believe it is at or near its peak currently,” forecaster Brett Harrison told public broadcaster ABC.
The swollen river was expected to hover around that level for about one hour before slowly receding, he said, warning however that the stricken city was not out of the woods yet.
“We still expect it to be above major flood levels until sometime during Friday and remain high over the weekend,” Harrison said.
Officials had predicted the river would exceed the last flood record of 5.45 metres that it hit during massive floods in 1974, but the forecast was repeatedly downgraded overnight and the peak came in even below the last predicted level of just under 5.0 metres (16 feet).
The lower-than-expected peak will grant a reprieve to thousands of homeowners who had been expecting their properties to be submerged, but it was too late for thousands of others.
Officials had predicted that 20,000 thousand properties would be completely submerged when the flood reached its originally-expected peak of around 5.5 metres, and that more than 12,000 would be partially submerged.
But Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman said Thursday that revised modelling based on a high flood peak of 4.6 metres showed that 11,900 properties would be fully flooded and 14,700 partially inundated — fewer than feared.
“We all now have to rally together to help these people clean up, the ones that have suffered impacts,” Newman said.
But the floods have already wrought significant devastation in the state capital, ripping off more than 300 metres of a concrete walkway and sending it careering treacherously down the river Thursday.