Child dies as Australia floods return

Downpours are linked to especially strong weather pattern known as La Nina.

Melbourne: A missing child was found dead in Australian floodwaters on Thursday as rising rivers cut off southern towns and flash torrents hit already deluged areas, swamping evacuees and sweeping cars off the road.

Police discovered the three-year-old in waters about 500 metres (yards) from his family`s home in rural New South Wales state late Wednesday, some 12 hours after he went missing on the remote property.

It was the first flood-related death in the eastern state and took the disaster`s total toll to 33, including at least six children.

Another 12 people were missing in the worst-hit Lockyer Valley, in the devastated northeastern state of Queensland, after a savage torrent described as an "inland tsunami" swept through the region this month, claiming 20 lives.

A high-tech unmanned glider was dispatched to map the flood damage, particularly its impact on marine life in the nearby Pacific Ocean, as severe storms again lashed Queensland, unleashing flash floods and high winds.

Cars were swept off the road in Brisbane, Australia`s third-largest city, which is still reeling from an unprecedented flood that engulfed 30,000 homes last week.

One man had to cling to tree branches after his car was tipped over, while a second was sucked into quicksand-like mud up to his neck in Bundaberg, to the north, before rescuers reached him.

Waist-high waters also rushed through the streets of Rockhampton, inundated earlier this month, and flooded the town`s evacuation centre -- a cruel blow for those left homeless by the earlier deluge.

"Some of those people were the ones that helped to stop the water coming through," a council spokesman said.

As much as 100 millimetres (four inches) of rain fell over the town in just 24 hours, and forecasters warned there were further storms to come, bringing heavy rain, hail, and damaging winds.

"Very heavy rain, causing flash flooding -- that`s a possibility again today," said the weather bureau`s Mike Marrinan. "Whether it`s in (Rockhampton) or somewhere else is up to where the storms develop and where they move."

The downpours are linked to an especially strong weather pattern known as La Nina, which meteorologists have warned will persist into March or April, resulting in heavy storms and cyclones.

About 1,500 properties remained at risk of flooding in the town of Kerang, in southern Victoria state, where a leaky levee was under pressure by the peaking Loddon River. Nearby Dimboola was being evacuated by soldiers.

The record Victoria deluge has swamped 1,700 homes across more than 60 towns and isolated a number of communities, including Kerang.

Bureau Report