Flooded communities across eastern Australia could be under water for more than a week, with the clean-up bill expected to hit billions of dollars, officials have said.
Days of torrential downpours have left parts of central and southern Queensland state inundated, flooding thousands of homes and businesses, cutting off roads and forcing the entire populations of two towns to evacuate.
The rain has now eased but river levels continue to rise in many locations as high waters make their way toward the sea. Communities already swamped could remain under water for up to 10 days, Queensland state premier Anna Bligh warned.
“It’s an enormous disaster,” she told ABC radio. “The recovery … is going to require literally billions of dollars from federal, state and local governments (and) insurance companies.”
Flood waters inundated 120 homes in the south-east Queensland town of Bundaberg, forcing the evacuation of about 400 people overnight, deputy mayor Tony Ricciardi said. Police had to rescue two people from the roof of their flooded home.
“This is a one-in-100-year event,” Mr Ricciardi said. “We won’t see this again in our lifetime. Well, I hope.”
Officials are evacuating all 100 residents of the town of Condamine by helicopter. A river running through Condamine is still rising and threatening to put the whole town under water.
In the town of Theodore, the military evacuated all 300 residents by helicopter.
Queensland has launched a disaster relief fund for flood victims with one million Australian dollars (£650,000) in state money. Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to match that amount with federal funds.