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Deadly floodwaters rise in eastern Australia

At least four people dead as torrential rains severely flood several cities and towns on country's east coast.
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2013 09:18

At least four people have been killed by deadly floodwaters, and thousands of homes and businesses flooded by torrential rain, along Australia's east coast since the weekend.

Floodwaters swept down the coast on Tuesday, with Queensland's state capital Brisbane bracing for its river to peak as other towns waited anxiously to see just how high the water would rise.

Campbell Newman, the premier of Queensland, said that Bundaberg, a coastal town about 360km northwest of Brisbane which has been hit by tornadoes in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, was a key concern.

Hundreds of people have been rescued from their rooftops in the town, many by helicopter, with Black Hawks operating until midnight using night vision to pluck them to safety as floodwaters rapidly rose around them.

"There may still be people in there and we have to get them out," Newman said. "We are concerned about houses being lifted off their stumps and swept away. People cannot stay in north Bundaberg."

Bundaberg mayor Mal Forman said the floods were unprecedented and had left residents "unbelieving".

"We are seeing things that aren't precedented, we have exceeded all records here," he said. "It's a very stressful time for everyone."

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, said that the worst of the weather had bypassed that city.

"The city has gotten off relatively lightly - not much damage here. Queensland bore the brunt of the bad weather on Sunday and Monday," our correspondent said.

Wild weather has, however, ripped trees up and caused dangerous surf in Sydney.

River peak

"The floodwaters from inland are now making their way to the coast and raising river levels along the way. However, overall, these floods aren't as serious as those from two years ago," Thomas said.

The floods come just two years after a devastating deluge covered much of Queensland, leaving more than 30 people dead and bringing Brisbane to a standstill.

But Newman said with Ipswich, a town west of Brisbane which was badly affected in 2011, escaping the worst overnight he was hopeful that the river peak in the state capital may not be as bad as at first feared.

It is not expected to come close to the seven metre peak seen in 2011.

"That bodes well for the predicted flood peak today in Brisbane, which is meant to happen before midday at 2.6 metres," Newman said.

As the current weather system moved south, towns in adjoining New South Wales state are on alert, with evacuations ordered in Grafton.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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