January 26

This Day in History

Disaster

Jan 26, 1974:

Cyclone Wanda causes flooding in Australia

On this day in 1974, the last remnants of Cyclone Wanda cause severe flooding in Queensland, Australia, that results in the deaths of 16 people and leaves thousands homeless.

The year 1973 had been an exceptionally wet one in Australia, and the beginning of the new year brought much of the same. Heavy rains in Victoria and Queensland and caused widespread flooding. By mid-January, the flooding had even extended to the inland desert regions of Australia. Hundreds of livestock drowned when they were stranded due to dry riverbeds suddenly becoming inundated with water.

On January 23, Cyclone Wanda came ashore on the east coast of Australia near Fraser Island. Although it didn't hit with powerful winds, Wanda brought even more rain. In particular, the Brisbane River reached its highest level since 1893 on January 26. That Australia Day weekend saw significant portions of Brisbane covered by two feet of water. Fourteen of the total 16 people killed in the flooding following Cyclone Wanda were killed in Brisbane. Additionally, more than 300 people suffered serious injuries and several thousand homes were destroyed. An estimated $200 million in damages was caused. In the aftermath, flood prevention efforts were undertaken in Brisbane that have been largely successful.

Later that year, Cyclone Tracy killed 71 people in Australia. These two cyclones in a single year were two of the three most deadly storms in Australia in the 20th century.

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