|The number of soldiers sent to Brisbane marks Australia's largest deployment for a natural disaster since 1974 [AFP]
Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister, has doubled the number of soldiers involved in the country's flood recovery effort to 1,200.
The deployment of troops to the country's northeast on Friday marks Australia's largest for a natural disaster since Cyclone Tracy destroyed the northern city of Darwin in 1974.
"Now is the right time to dramatically increase the number of defence personnel who are working in Queensland to assist with the Queensland floods," Gillard said.
Weeks of flooding across Australia's northeast have caused at least 27 deaths, and 55 people are still missing.
At least 36,000 homes and businesses in Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city, were swamped by the muddy waters following months of driving rain that fell across the northeast.
In towns upstream of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, soldiers picked their way through debris looking for more victims.
Anna Bligh, the state premier of Queensland, said: "There is a lot of heartache and grief as people start to see for the first time what has happened to their homes and their streets."
Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Brisbane, said: "Thick brown sludge has been left behind after the waters receded all through people's homes.
"Today is day one of the clean-up operation as soldiers have been instructed to take everything out that has been severely damaged."
Military aircraft have been used to evacuate flood-hit residents, transport supplies and conduct search-and-rescue operations during the floods and will also assist in engineering work to rebuild roads and buildings.
In some parts of Queensland, residents returned to see what remained of their homes and businesses as deadly floodwaters that swamped entire neighbourhoods receded.
Bligh, the Queensland premier, urged locals to help each other as the city of two million people began its daunting "post-war" rebuilding effort.
The river had dropped two metres from its peak of 4.46 metres reached on Thursday, exposing damage that will add dramatically to Queensland's estimated flood reconstruction bill of $5 billion.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies