5 January 2023

UPDATED: Cleanup continues in Canberra Centre after flash flooding closes shops

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Cleanup continues on the top floor of the Canberra Centre after a heavy storm yesterday. Photo: G Jacobs.

UPDATED 5 January, 11 am: A number of shops on the top floor of the Canberra Centre remain shut after more than 21 mm of rain fell during a torrential storm yesterday afternoon.

“The back of the store is absolutely wrecked. It’s full of water and still not really safe to go in there,” a shop manager who asked not to be named told Region this morning.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to our stock. It’s a complete mess.”

David Jones, Muji and several smaller retailers on the Centre’s top floor, including Sportscraft and Jacqui E, are closed today with signs indicating flood damage.

ACT State Emergency Services and ACT Fire and Rescue were called to the Canberra Centre as water began streaming in from light fittings. Reports suggested that part of the ceiling had collapsed. It’s believed moviegoers were also evacuated from the Dendy Cinema.

A statement from Ciaran Tuite, Retail Manager, Canberra Centre said there had been “some temporary impacts to the Centre, with some retailers closed for repairs until further notice, and minor disruptions to some accessways and thoroughfares.

“Our team is working with our retail partners and specialist technicians to safely reopen the parts of the centre affected, and directional signage is in place to aid with customer flow through the centre”, the statement said.*

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our entire Canberra Centre community remains our number one priority during this time.”

There were reports of flooding across the city centre, including in Lonsdale St, where some shops closed early, and Coranderrk St, where water levels rose quickly. Parkes Way was also inundated with water and closed for safety reasons around 4:30 pm.

The ESA received 54 calls for help in a matter of hours but no injuries were reported.

closed sign on shop door

A number of shops on the Centre’s top floor are closed. Photo: G Jacobs.

UPDATED 8 pm: An Incident Management Team has been set up by the ACT’s Emergency Services Agency (ESA) following heavy rain and minor flooding in a number of Canberra residential and commercial buildings this afternoon (4 December).

The team is responding to what the ESA has described as an influx of calls for assistance after the storm hit around 4 pm. Fifty requests for help were received between 4 pm and 7 pm, mostly relating to flood damage, and the ESA expects to work through the night to clear outstanding jobs.

There are also reports of fallen trees from across the city and the ESA has reminded people to take extra care on wet roads and not to drive through flooded crossings.

ACT State Emergency Services and ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers have been deployed alongside ACT Fire and Rescue crews to respond to calls.

“Please be patient,” ESA Media said this evening. “Our team of teams are set to work into the evening”.

5:30 pm: Heavy rain has caused minor flooding in Canberra’s city centre following a downpour at around 4:30 pm this afternoon (4 December).

More than 10 mm of rain fell in minutes, filling gutters across the city. The Canberra Centre’s manager would not confirm or deny reports of significant leakage in the Centre’s roof, although reports on social media said that a number of stores, including David Jones, were forced to close their doors due to minor flooding.

“From what I can see, the Pharmacy on Petrie has been hit quite hard,” a reader told Region. “Employees from the shops are standing outside in groups looking unsure about what’s going on and when they’ll be able to go back inside.”

Footage taken by shoppers appears to show an evacuation alarm sounding as water runs across the ground floor inside the shopping mall and staff attempt to place safety warnings.

Emergency Services ACT has also confirmed reports that they had been called to the Canberra Centre just before 4:30 pm in response to a call about water coming through light fittings, believed to be in the vicinity of the Apple shop in the mall.

A spokeswoman said she was unable to confirm any evacuations, although the ESA had been notified of a fire alarm being activated in the area at 4:27 pm. Fire alarms can occasionally be triggered by flooding.

ESA crews are responding to multiple reports of storm damage across the city, ranging from power lines down in Dunlop, Narrabundah, O’Malley, Deakin, McGregor and elsewhere to tree damage and motor vehicle accidents.

*Updated 1pm 5 January to include statement.

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