Cairns Airport has suffered severe flooding in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Jasper over the weekend, forcing it to close for the second time in four days.
Images on social media have shown planes underwater at the airport, while holidaymakers have been left stranded at destinations such as Osaka as flights have been unable to take off for Cairns. The airport on Sunday was hit with 309mm of rain in 24 hours, with floods surpassing 1977 levels.
MAJOR FLOODING IS OCCURRING AT CAIRNS AIRPORT AND KAMERUNGA BRIDGE DURING SUNDAY EVENING.
RIVER LEVELS ARE NOW ABOVE THE MARCH 1977 FLOOD LEVEL.
For flood emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500. For life threatening emergencies, call Triple Zero (000) immediately. pic.twitter.com/1JERjfeLrG
— Queensland Ambulance (@QldAmbulance) December 17, 2023
In an update on Cairns Airport’s website on Monday morning, staff said that while flooding had subsided at the aerodrome itself, the airport’s proximity to the Barron River meant “significant debris” needed to be removed and cleaned before it could reopen.
“We will then be in a position to assess our runway infrastructure, to determine its serviceability. This will take some time. As such, we can confirm that operations will not recommence at Cairns Airport today. Please do not travel to the airport today,” the statement read.
“All flights scheduled for today have been cancelled or delayed. Please contact your airline directly for information about specific flights.
“We also wish to reiterate that our domestic and international terminals, including the car parks, have not been adversely impacted.”
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, airport CEO Richard Barker said the water had since been pumped off the runway, which was then cleared of debris, and advised passengers looking to travel into or out of the airport to contact their airlines regarding potential flights starting Tuesday.
“At this particular point in time, we now have a runway that is clear and dry. All of the navigation lighting, which was underwater for 24 hours, is operational, and we’ve had our first aircraft take off this afternoon, it was a private aircraft,” he said.
“We have a runway that is available for aircraft operations from this evening. And so what we’re looking to do is, and we’ve just been speaking with all the airlines, they are making their individual decisions about whether or not they’re going to be flying tomorrow. Many of them are looking to have scheduled flights from tomorrow, being Tuesday.”
The airport was closed ahead of Jasper making landfall on Wednesday morning, and while it subsequently reopened, the continued heavy rains from the storm system forced it to close again over the weekend.