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Australia floodwaters rise
Queensland still on edge as rivers surge to new heights and flow into low-lying towns even though rain has stopped.
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2011 15:08 GMT




Residents of the city of Rockhampton, in the Australian state of Queensland, face a nervous wait as floodwaters continue to rise.

Rockhampton is one of 20 towns and cities hit by the flooding that now covers an area larger than France and Germany combined, with about 200,000 people affected.

While the rain has stopped, rivers are still surging to new heights and overflowing into low-lying towns as the water makes its way towards the ocean.

Officials said on Sunday that half of Queensland's 1.8 million sq km has been affected by the flooding.

Many homes in Rockhampton have been evacuated, the city's airport has been closed and power has been cut to some areas.

Some residents were still being moved on Sunday. About 30 residents were staying at an evacuation centre, while others have moved in with friends and relatives, officials said.

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

"We're talking about, potentially, 4,000 properties, parcels of land, allotments, that will have water inundation in them," he said.

"This potentially could be the second or third largest flood that this region has ever known."

The Fitzroy river, which runs through the city, is expected to peak at a level of about 9.4m on Wednesday.

First fatality

Authorities separately carried out an air, land and water search for a man believed to missing after entering the Fitzroy River early on Sunday morning.

Further north in Burketown, the body of a missing woman was found in the flooded Leichardt river. The 41-year-old disappeared on Saturday night when the car she was travelling in was washed off a causeway.

The woman is the first victim of the relentless flooding that one official has described as reaching "biblical proportions".

Meanwhile, residents affected by the floods in outlying towns have begun assessing the damage to their homes.

The small town of Bungadoo, near Bundaberg, has been isolated for weeks. At least six families in the community lost their homes after about four metres of water swamped the area.

The waters rose so fast many only escaped with the clothes on their back.

"We didn't have a chance," Rodney Berlin, a Bungadoo resident, told the Associated Press news agency.

"It just come up that quick we just had to pack the kids up and everything up and go."

Their home was flooded and their 7.3 hectare property devastated. They returned to find horses missing and possessions destroyed.

But despite the adversities the small community has vowed to rebuild.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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