Airlift for town amid flood fears

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The entire population of 300 people has been flown out of a town in eastern Australia by military helicopter amid flood fears

The entire population of 300 people has been flown out of a town in eastern Australia by military helicopter as river levels continue to rise after days of pouring rain.

A total of 1,000 people were evacuated from the town of Theodore and other parts of central and southern Queensland state, with swollen rivers there expected to rise higher in coming days. Only a few police officers remained in Theodore, county mayor Mareen Clancy said.

“Certainly the water is still rising,” the mayor said. “The heights are at such a new record it’s not known what this is going to do.”

At least two other Queensland towns – Emerald and Bundaberg – were also preparing to evacuate.

The state premier, Anna Bligh, launched a disaster relief fund for flood victims with 1 million Australian dollars (£654,000) in state money. Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to match that amount with federal funds.

“We won’t know until flood waters recede the total amount of damage done,” Ms Gillard said. “But what this does mean is the Queensland and federal governments will work together in those areas in partnership with the rebuilding of critical infrastructure.”

While days of heavy rain have eased, river levels continue to rise in many locations in the southern and central areas of the state as high waters make their way towards the sea. Communities downstream face days of uncertainty, the Meteorology Bureau has warned.

Flooding has shut down about 300 roads across Queensland, including two major highways to the state capital Brisbane.

The head of the state’s emergency agency, Bruce Grady, said the crisis would not pass quickly.

“These flood waters are likely to remain high for a long period of time – in some cases that might be measured by weeks, rather than days,” he told reporters. “These waters will go down when nature tells us they will go down.”

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