TONY EASTLEY: The military’s focus is now set to turn to the recovery of bodies.
The Federal Government will send in high wheel army trucks and other heavy military vehicles into the devastated Lockyer Valley, and flood ravaged city of Toowoomba.
The Defence Minister Stephen Smith spoke to Samantha Hawley about the increased military commitment.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well as a result of our conversations with Premier Bligh and also with our Defence personnel in Queensland yesterday, further today or later today the Prime Minister will announce a deployment of further assets.
We’ve made a considerable contribution in terms of helicopters in particular. But to assist the search and rescue and recovery, particularly in the Valley where there’ve been terrible circumstances, today we’ll announce a further contribution of high wheel based army trucks which can get better access in difficult conditions. Also, a deployment of Bushmaster vehicles for the same purpose. We’re also looking at providing a small number of amphibious vehicles which can manoeuvre in the flood waters particularly as the flood waters start to recede but where vehicle access remains very difficult.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And what will be the main aim of the military people on board those vehicles?
STEPHEN SMITH: We think there is going to be a particular problem with tragic outcomes in the Valley. And that’s where our helicopter effort has been in the last couple of days. We are steeling ourselves for terrible outcomes there in terms of loss of life and Premier Bligh has made that clear.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: So what you’re saying is that the soldiers will be looking for bodies?
STEPHEN SMITH: That will be part of it. I think we have to steel ourselves for that terrible outcome.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Exactly what areas will they be going into and do you know how many soldiers will be on those vehicles?
STEPHEN SMITH: Firstly there’ll be a small number of vehicles. We tried to utilise vehicles at the height of the storm a few days ago but road conditions didn’t allow that. So we’ve got access to a small number of high wheel based vehicles; we have access to Bushmasters. Bushmasters are able to carry half a dozen or more either Defence personnel or State Emergency Service personnel.
The small amphibious vehicles likewise can carry half a dozen Emergency Services personnel or Defence personnel. The precise number of vehicles and Bushmasters will depend upon access and circumstances.
We will have, we expect, a small number of amphibious vehicles that will essentially focus on the aftermath of the tragedy in Toowoomba and recovery effort in the Valley.
TONY EASTLEY: Defence Minister Stephen Smith speaking to Samantha Hawley.
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