Woman drowns in Australian floods


Military aircraft dropped supplies to towns cut off by floods in north-east Australia (AP)

A woman drowned after trying to cross a flooded causeway in Australia, becoming the first victim of relentless flooding that one official described as reaching “biblical proportions”.

Days of heavy rain last week left much of north-east Australia swamped by a sea of muddy water, with flooding affecting about 200,000 people in an area larger than France and Germany combined.

The rain has stopped but rivers are still rising and overflowing into low-lying communities as the water moves toward the ocean.

On Saturday evening, two cars trying to cross a flooded causeway were swept into a river in Burketown, in western Queensland, police said. A 41-year-old woman travelling in the second car disappeared in the rushing water, and her body was later recovered about 1.2 miles away, Queensland Police said.

“We’re just grateful there weren’t more casualties,” Queensland’s Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Alistair Dawson said. “We’re focused on preventing any more.”

About 1,000 people are living in evacuation centres across the state, and it may be a month before floodwaters dry up, Mr Dawson said.

“It’s hard to make the call that the worst is behind us,” he said. “It’s a unique event – parts of the state are still in response mode while others are in recovery. I think we’re in the middle of the event.”

Officials said half of Queensland’s 715,305 square miles (1.8 million square kilometres) has been affected by the flooding. Queensland premier Anna Bligh warned that clean-up efforts were expected to cost billions of dollars.

Another severe thunderstorm is expected to sweep through much of southern Queensland later, bringing damaging hail and winds and the potential for flash flooding, the state Bureau of Meteorology warned.

“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Queensland treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in the flooded city of Bundaberg on Saturday.

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