`Biblical` floods threaten thousands in Australia

Up to 200,000 people have been affected by the floods in Queensland.

Updated: Jan 01, 2011, 10:53 AM IST

Bundaberg: Flood waters swept through vast areas of northeastern Australia on Saturday, threatening to inundate thousands more homes in a disaster one official said was of "biblical proportions".

As Queen Elizabeth II sent her "sincere sympathies" to Queenslanders who rang in a damp new year, the military was assisting deliver food and other supplies to isolated towns by helicopter.

Up to 200,000 people have been affected by the floods which have hurt the state`s lucrative mining industry and cut off major highways as the water rushes through sodden inland regions to the sea.

"In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions," Queensland State Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in flood-hit Bundaberg.

Emergency workers were focusing their efforts on Rockhampton where the Fitzroy River had broken its banks and was rising dangerously, threatening some 2,000 to 4,000 homes ahead of reaching its expected peak on Wednesday.

"We know we have prepared as best we can -- most people who are expecting water to inundate their houses have evacuated," said Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter of the flood which could leave the town stranded for 10 days.

Rockhampton`s airport was expected to close to commercial flights Saturday as floodwaters rose, while overall the state is experiencing flooding over an area the size of France and Germany combined.

But as some wait for the flood peak, in other towns residents are preparing to return to homes they evacuated last week in the wake of torrential downpours.

In the central Queensland town of Emerald, where about 80 percent of the town was submerged by the worst flooding on record, water from the Nogoa River has inundated some 1,000 homes.

"We`ve only worked that out by taking aerial shots," Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire told Australian news agency AAP. "There may be more homes affected, we don`t know."

"We`re talking months of cleaning up and repairs," he said, adding that in total about 4,000 homes in the region were flood affected to some degree.

In Bundaberg in the state`s southeast the clean-up was set to begin in about 300 homes and 120 businesses as the flood waters rapidly recede but other towns such as Theodore and Condamine remain evacuated after days of surging waters.

Flooding hit record levels in Condamine and the town could remain abandoned for a week, according to Western Downs Regional Mayor Ray Brown.

Bureau Report