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Townsville Floods Declared A "Catastrophe'

A massive monsoonal deluge that has flooded Townsville has been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia.

The one-in-100 year big wet has inundated dozens of homes and businesses and with conditions set to worsen thousands of homes could be affected, the ICA said in a statement.

As of 8pm on Saturday, insurers had received about 1900 claims with insurance losses estimated at $16.7 million.

"The ICA has declared a catastrophe to help escalate the insurance industry's response," said ICA CEO Rob Whelan.

The declaration has been made to "help reduce the emotional and financial stress being experienced by families and businesses, and provide them with peace of mind that their insurer is there to help," he said.

The announcement comes as five hundred homes are under threat of flooding overnight, with torrential forecasts hitting up to 20,000 homes, according to police.

The Ross River Dam catchment is still over 200 percent capacity, despite the gates being opened earlier this week and the Bureau of Meteorology has warned "this unprecedented event is far from over."

Emergency services began door-knocking in Townsville and surrounding areas since 2pm to warn residents to either evacuate to higher ground or to an evacuation centre, Townsville Disaster Information (TDI) said in a statement.

"The opening of the spillway gates may be increased again today, depending on the rain that falls over the Ross River Dam catchment," TDI said.

Opening the gates further could leave houses not yet flooded more susceptible to being inundated with water as the water is let out from the dam.

The evacuations are not forced, but Townsville Local Disaster Management Group (TLDMG) Chair Mayor Jenny Hill said residents must use "common sense".

“We ask anyone who is door knocked and lives in a low-set home to consider leaving because their home may be flooded,” she said.

UNPRECEDENTED Rainfall CONTINUES 

More than the annual rainfall has been dumped on far north Queensland in the past eight days and with the trough hovering above Townsville on Saturday,.

However, the worst is yet to come over the next few days, the weather bureau says.

Since Friday, Townsville has received more than 300 millimetres of rain on top of the almost 1000 millimetres already dumped on the area in the past seven days.

The BoM said despite recent rainfall around Townsville easing in the last few hours, it was expected to get heavier as the day goes on.

"Unfortunately heavier falls should return later today and tonight,"

"This unprecedented event is far from over."

READ MORE: One-In-100-Year-Event: Townsville Braces For More Rain

READ MORE: Townsville Emergency Declared: 'I Think I Saw A Dead Cow Float By'

Dozens Of Rescues

A grazier in a helicopter has rescued four tourists trapped in a car as the flood crisis gripping north Queensland intensifies.

Two Swiss and two German tourists are back on dry land after the private helicopter plucked them from floodwater near Middleton on Saturday.

SES volunteers are seen rescuing residents in Rosslea, Townsville,. Image: AAP

They were uninjured and had plenty of food when they activated their EBIRP distress beacon on Friday morning after their two vehicles were stranded by the flooded Diamantina River.

In and around disaster-declared Townsville, which is the epicentre of the one-in-100 year event, there have been at least 38 rescues.

Overnight swift water rescue crews helped 80 people move to higher ground and they spent Saturday guiding more through flooded streets.

More than 400 army personnel have sandbagged vulnerable properties.

Army personal assist a family evacuating rising flood waters in Rosslea, Townsville. Image: AAP
Escaping The Floods

Some Townsville residents are using their local pubs as a way of escaping the rising flood waters.

Wayne Hornsby, publican of the Thirsty Camel in South Townsville, said his bottle shop has been "extremely busy" and the pub "flat chat".

"There's probably about 50 or 60 people in here at the moment," he told 10 daily.

Flood damage in Wulguru, Townsville. Image: AAP

The pub, which Hornsby said is not affected by the flooding, is providing a dry refuge for his patrons.

"I think they were all bored, and have come here to get away from the floods."

Locals Reminded To Keep Checking Warnings

People have been urged to check emergency services and weather warnings which change regularly.

Locals were told to think about heading for higher ground on Saturday in areas near the Haughton, Herbert, Ross and Bohle rivers.

Flood warnings are also in place for numerous rivers including Black River and Bluewater Creek, the Burdekin River, Isaac River Catchment, Don River, Thomson and Barcoo rivers and Cooper Creek.

On Palm Island, rain has impacted the water treatment plant and residents should boil all drinking water until further notice.

Further north, coastal communities on the Gulf of Carpentaria are preparing for the highest tides of year and gale force winds.

With AAP.

Contact the author at jdunne@networkten.com.au.