Brisbane Escapes Worst-Case Scenario

The Brisbane River is rising to a peak below five metres, but authorities are still warning there will be widespread devastation.

The river is now expected to reach 4.6 metres, almost a metre lower than the historic flood of 1974. Floodwaters, however, have still inundated dozens of suburbs and turned the centre of the Queensland capital into a ghost town.

About 20,000 homes and 3,500 businesses have been affected and more than 115,000 people are without power. The Weather Bureau has revised down the expected peak three times during the past 12 hours.Authorities had expected the river to peak at 5.2 metres at the 4:00am (AEST) high tide, down from an even earlier forecast of 5.5 metres.

Hydrologist Jeff Perkins says the river levels should start falling early this morning.

""It's one of those ones where we have a rule that we don't call it a peak until we see it falling,"" he said. ""What tends to happen is it steadies off. Once we see it steady we'll be pretty confident it's a peak.

""But we might not see it falling for a couple of hours yet.""

Nevertheless, Premier Anna Bligh has warned that residents will wake today to ""shocking"" flood scenes.

She said Brisbane had developed significantly since 1974 and that there were many more built-up areas that would be affected by flooding now compared to then. "