What Debbie did

Sharks, snakes, crocs may lurk in floodwaters

A bull shark found lying on a road near the town of Ayr in Queensland after Cyclone Debbie slammed through the state.
A bull shark found lying on a road near the town of Ayr in Queensland after Cyclone Debbie slammed through the state.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Wading through flooded areas can be dangerous anywhere in the world but, in Australia, the waters could contain snakes, crocodiles and sharks, as well as rubbish and sewage.

One striking image that revealed all too clearly the impact of Cyclone Debbie, the Category 4 storm that smashed through Australia earlier in the week, was a paramedic's photo of a large bull shark that washed onto a road near the town of Ayr.

There are often other unusual sightings in flood waters in Australia's tropical north. The Queensland state authorities warned that crocodiles and snakes could also be lurking around after the storm.

"Flooded waterways increase the possibility of crocodiles and other animals, such as snakes, turning up in unexpected places," said the state's environment and heritage protection department.

"In most circumstances, crocodiles will move through, trying to get out of fast-flowing creeks and waterways to the quieter areas they prefer. Snakes are good swimmers, and they too could turn up in unexpected places and might even find their way onto people's properties."

Paramedic Lisa Smith, who snapped the bull shark, said she was stunned to find it lying near the Burdekin River. "At first I thought it was a dolphin, but then I thought, 'nah, there wouldn't be any dolphins around here'," she told Brisbane's Courier Mail. "I thought there were just crocs in that river."

She added: "This should definitely teach people to never walk in floodwaters as you never know what's in them."

Snake catcher Anthony Bailey from Yeppoon in Queensland, who offered on Facebook to remove reptiles for free after the storm, received a flood of responses.

"Already had a brown (snake) at our back door. Good on you guys for offering free assistance during this time," one person replied.

Mr Bailey said snakes are fond of slithering indoors in wet conditions.

"They don't like sitting out in the rain. They go into houses or trees to escape the water and possibly look for some warmth," he told the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

Australia is home to 20 of the world's 25 most venomous varieties of snakes, including all of the top 10. Brown snakes, among the most poisonous, are commonly found in eastern Australia and can reach 2m in length when fully grown.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Sharks, snakes, crocs may lurk in floodwaters'. Print Edition | Subscribe