Cairns Airport: planes submerged underwater as tropical cyclone hits Queensland

Yasmina Bonnet / Twitter

Cairns Airport (CNS) was forced to close a second time in three days after the airport, including its runways, was flooded in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

The airport first closed on December 12, 2023 from 20:00 local time, and reopened at 09:00 local time on December 14, 2023.

Although the cyclone weakened, thunderstorms and rain continued through the weekend of December 15-16, 2023, breaking the banks of rivers and creeks and causing flooding in several tourist towns in north Queensland, including Cairns.

On December 17, 2023, 14:20 local time, the airport announced that it had ceased operations once more due to an “unprecedented flooding event” at the airport. This was related to major and rapid flooding at the nearby Barron River, which led to a spillover at the airport’s levy wall. 

Video footage of major floods in the area have been uploaded and shared on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook, where planes at Cairns Airport can be seen submerged in floodwater.

An aerial video clip taken by a passenger landing at Cairns Airport just before it was closed for the second time captured the entire city almost submerged underwater.

On December 18, 2023, the airport said it plans to reopen and resume operations on December 19, 2023.

“This follows an extensive effort from the Cairns Airport team, with support from a number of external businesses, who worked throughout today to pump water out, clear and inspect the runway, along with its lighting and infrastructure,” the airport said in its announcement.

Officials said Cairns had received months’ worth of rain in just over 40 hours (about 600mm). Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged the military’s full support for disaster relief efforts, with personnel ready for assistance.

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