Work has begun to clear debris strewn across the Douglas Shire’s Cape Tribulation Road network north of Cairns, including a giant 56m landslide.
The area was one of the worst hit after ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper caused record flooding just weeks ago.
But road work looks set to be jeopardised by heavy rain with a tropical low – and possibly another cyclone – set to form in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“We have extensive landslides. We need extra crews to assist,” Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr told AAP.
“This work needs to be done quite quickly because there is a lot of weight on the roads.
“The longer it is there the more chance there is of collapse.”
Nearby Port Douglas received 60mm overnight with more downpours expected for days, sparking fears road clearings may need to be reassessed.
A tropical low is set to form by Friday and is a low chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the weekend, barely a month after Jasper wreaked havoc in the region.
“The rain that is currently happening and forecast is concerning,” Mr Kerr said.
“If we get over 100mm of rain we are going to reassess a lot of work we are doing clearing the roads.
“We are trying to get it done as quickly as possible but we will have to assess whether it is still safe for machinery to be on it – it (more rain) could jeopardise the road work.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Queensland Premier Steven Miles visited the region this week, pledging Australian Defence Force support for the recovery effort.
Mr Miles said the Captain Cook Highway was set to reopen between Ellis Beach and Port Douglas on January 20 – weather permitting – with 30,000 tonnes of mud and debris removed.
There are 15 trucks making about 100 trips every day to remove debris at the site.
Another shot in the arm has been a $24 million recovery package announced on Wednesday to support tourism, clean-up efforts and specialised recovery staff in the far north.
“This will help businesses who have been isolated for long periods of time, they have been struggling to keep staff,” Mr Kerr said.
“If they lose staff then they will well and truly be stranded when tourism does reopen so that extra funding is so important.”
Tourism makes up about 80 per cent of the Douglas Shire economy, injecting more than $600 million every year and creating 2600 jobs.
“We haven’t even recovered from COVID so we are only just start to see the tourists come back again,” Mr Kerr said.
“For this flooding damage to happen is another kick in the guts for these businesses.”
A major recovery effort is also under way in Queensland’s southeast after seven people died in storm-related incidents, with the Gold Coast, Scenic Rim and Logan the hardest hit.
More than 121,000 people across the state have received almost $22 million in financial assistance.
“The severity of impacts on communities in the far north and southeast is reflected in the amount of assistance that’s already in the pockets of Queenslanders,” State Disaster Recovery Minister Nikki Boyd said.
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick estimated the state’s repair bill would be $2 billion but expected that figure to rise.