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Australia braces as devastating floods set to worsen

Australian floods toll rises
Sydney (AFP) Jan 3, 2011 - Raging Australian floodwaters claimed two more lives Monday, when a man drowned after his car was washed into a flooded creek and the body of another swept from a small boat was recovered. The torrential rains which have lashed the state and created a massive flood zone have now claimed 10 lives since November 30, police said. In the latest fatality, a man died after the car he was in was washed into a flooded creek as it was being driven across a causeway, prompting more warnings for residents not to drive through flooded roads and to obey road closures. "They are there for a purpose and that purpose is the protection of life", chief superintendent Alistair Dawson told reporters in Brisbane.

Searchers on Monday also recovered the body of a 38-year-old man whose boat was swamped two days ago in central Queensland's Boyne River at Tannum Sands, an area badly hit by the floods. The man and his companion attempted to swim to safety after the boat began filling with water and he was last seen stranded on a sand bar. The other man made it to safety and raised the alarm. Floodwaters sweeping through northeastern Australia have prompted a string of rescues, including that of a group attempting to cross a swamped causeway in the northern Gulf of Carpentaria region late on Saturday. Police managed to save three children and another adult from the car but a 41-year-old woman disappeared before they could reach her. Her body was recovered later.

Since November 30 there have been seven other deaths related to the floods, including that of a 17-year-old girl who drowned after her foot became stuck between rocks while trying to walk across a swollen and rising creek. Three other people drowned when their vehicles were swept away while a teenage boy and a man drowned in separate incidents after jumping into flowing waterways. Another man died after being swept off a footbridge in the state's far north on December 28. Prime Minister Julia Gillard Monday warned people to beware of the risks. "Floodwaters are dangerous," she told reporters in Sydney. "Fast moving water, rising water is dangerous." "So I would ask everybody to abide by the instruction of emergency personnel and police as to how to move around and deal with this dangerous situation," she added.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 3, 2011
Australian troops and emergency workers were Monday battling huge flooding in the country's northeast that has left at least two people dead, with the worst devastation yet to come for some areas.

Up to 200,000 people are estimated to have been hit by the fast-flowing waters that have left 22 rural towns under water or substantially inundated by flooding stretching to an area the size of France and Germany combined.

The military was flying food and medical supplies into the coastal city of Rockhampton, population 75,000, on Monday as it braced to be entirely cut off by the waters, which are expected to flood hundreds more homes.

"Looks like Rockhampton's in the middle of an inland sea," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said after flying over the area. "The amount of water coming down these river systems is nothing short of astonishing."

The airport to the regional hub was closed while roads to the south and west were blocked by floodwaters, prompting concerns among officials that the sizable population centre could run low on food.

"The affected area is greater than the size of New South Wales (state), with the worst still to come in communities like Rockhampton," Bligh said.

"Supplying them with food, ensuring that we keep them safe during this flood is absolutely critical."

The floods prompted Prime Minister Julia Gillard to offer emergency funds to those affected, including farmers more used to battling crippling droughts, as well as small businesses.

"When the floodwaters recede, we are going to see a lot of damage but we will obviously be working with the state government to rebuild that essential community infrastructure," Gillard told reporters in Sydney.

"All in all, we know hundreds of millions of dollars are going to flow into Queensland."

Gillard, who toured some of the devastated areas on Friday, said for some communities these were "the biggest floods they have ever seen" as she warned people to beware of the risks of the fast-flowing waters.

Police confirmed the second death since the floods were declared a disaster, that of a man who abandoned his boat after it took on water.

It follows that of a woman who drowned after she was swept away by surging waters after her car became swamped over the weekend.

It brings to nine the number of people who have died in flood-related accidents since November 30 -- including three people whose vehicles were swept away, two people who attempted to swim in fast-flowing waters, a man who was knocked off a footbridge by waters and a girl who drowned while trying to walk across a river.

Queensland state assistant police commissioner Alistair Dawson has warned the emergency could drag on for another month, saying while parts of the state were in recovery mode, others were bracing for the worst.

"It's hard to make the call that the worst is behind us," he said Sunday.

The floods are wreaking untold billions of dollars in damage to crops and Australia's key mining industry, while farmers, small businesses and tourism are also expected to suffer.

While more people were expected to throng evacuation centres in places such as Rockhampton on Monday, in other parts of the state residents were beginning to return to their homes to begin the massive clean-up.

In Bundaberg, in Queensland's southeast, the clean-up had begun in about 300 homes and 120 businesses as flood waters recede, but other towns such as Theodore and Condamine remained empty of residents.

"It's just devastating," Queenslander Beryl Callaghan told Sky News after returning to her water-damaged home.

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Short respite but worst of Australian floods 'not over'
Bundaberg, Australia (AFP) Jan 3, 2011
Emergency services in northeastern Australia geared up Monday to battle huge flooding that has left at least one person dead, amid warnings the worst of the devastation is far from over. Up to 200,000 people are estimated to have been hit by the fast-flowing waters which have left entire rural towns under water and cut off many more over a vast area the size of France and Germany combined. ... read more

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