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Australian floods reach 'biblical proportions'

 
 
 
 
 
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Disaster: Properties across central Queensland are inundated by floodwaters. The Fitzroy River was at 8.8 metres - and expected to rise to nine metres

Woman, 41, drowns trying to drive across flooded road as natural disaster in Australia reaches ‘biblical proportions’.

Australia’s disastrous floods have claimed their first fatality.

A 41-year-old woman died after she tried to cross a flooded causeway in her car and was swept into a river. Her body was recovered almost a mile away.

Days of pounding rain last week left much of north-eastern Australia swamped by a sea of muddy water, with flooding affecting about 200,000 people in an area larger than France and Germany combined.

Wet start to the year: Houses in the town of Theodore, 255 miles north west of Brisbane, were partially submerged by flood waters yesterday

The city of Rockhampton, near the coast, is the next community in the water’s path, and is bracing for flood levels to peak on Wednesday.

Forecasters predicted a severe thunderstorm would sweep through much of southern Queensland last night, bringing the potential for more flash flooding, the state Bureau of Meteorology warned.

While the rain stopped temporarily, rivers were surging to new heights and overflowing into low-lying towns as the water makes its way toward the ocean.

On Saturday night, two cars trying to cross a flooded causeway were swept into a river in Burketown, in western Queensland state, police said.

A 41-year-old woman traveling in the second car disappeared in the rushing water, and her body was recovered Sunday about 1.2 miles away, Queensland police said.

‘We’re just grateful there weren’t more casualties,” Queensland’s Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Alistair Dawson said. ‘We’re focused on preventing any more.’

About 1,000 people were living in evacuation centers across the state, and it may be a month before floodwaters dry up, Dawson said.

Floody hell: Rockhampton's sewage plant surrounded by floodwaters - and another thunderstorm was expected

No way out: Flood waters cover much of the runway at the airport in the north Australian city of Rockhampton, about 300 miles north of Brisbane

‘It’s hard to make the call that the worst is behind us,” he said. “It’s a unique event – parts of the state are still in response mode while others are in recovery. I think we’re in the middle of the event.’

Officials say half of Queensland’s 715,305 square miles has been affected by the flooding. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that cleanup efforts were expected to cost billions of dollars.

“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in the flooded city of Bundaberg on Saturday.

The city of Rockhampton, near the coast, is the next community in the water’s path, and is bracing for flood levels to peak Wednesday.

Officials have been evacuating Rockhampton residents for days, and some were still being moved on Sunday. Mayor Brad Carter warned about 40 percent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.

Around 1,000 homes had water in their yards by Sunday, Dawson said. About 30 residents were staying at an evacuation center, while others have moved in with friends and relatives.

Washout: A petrol station is partially submerged by flood waters, in Bundaberg, about 174 miles north of Brisbane

An aerial view of the flooding situation near the town of Watson, in the state of Queensland following record rainfall

Merry Christmas: But it's far from a happy new year for residents of Bundaberg who are submerged under flood water

Rockhampton mayor Brad Carter warned that about 40 percent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.

‘Some of them will not know whether their floorboards have been covered and their personal property destroyed, or whether they’ve been saved and the water has only come up and spared their property,’ he said.

‘That’s going to be a difficult waiting period for many members of our community.’

Officials say half of Queensland’s 715,305 square miles have been affected by the flooding.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that drenched communities could be underwater for more than a week, and cleanup efforts were expected to cost billions of dollars.

Military aircraft dropped supplies to towns cut off by floodsas the prime minister promised new assistance.

Water disaster: Properties across Queensland were inundated with floods

Worst hit: Street signs are submerged in flood waters in Bundaberg, Queensland

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured an evacuation center in the flood-stricken town of Bundaberg on Friday and announced that families whose homes had been flooded or damaged would be eligible for disaster relief payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child.

‘My concern is for the people in these very difficult times,’ Ms Gillard said.
A day earlier, she pledged £645,000 in federal aid to match a relief fund already set up by the state government.

Bundaberg resident Sandy Kiddle told the Prime Minister she lost cherished items after floodwaters surged through her house. She said may not be able to return home for a week.

‘It was just a sea of water, and I thought the beach would never come to our house,’ she said.

Northeastern Australia often sees heavy rains and flooding during the Southern Hemisphere summer, but the scope of the damage from the recent downpours is unusual.

Jim Casey and his wife Lesley made the most of the flooding and fished from the porch of their flooded home in Chinchilla, Queensland

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