Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Australia floods set to keep rising

The flooded suburb of Depot Hill at Rockhampton, Australia (AP)
A flooded street in Rockhampton, where the water is still rising (AP)
Two police officers walk along a flooded creek at Innisfail, Australia (AP)

People in the flooded Australian city of Rockhampton are preparing for the worst as waters continue to rise.

Levels are expected to peak at another few feet, with air, rail and road links cut and its sewage plant now under threat.

Residents made their way in boats through waters that reached waist-high in some areas on Tuesday but were warned not to wade into them for fear of snakes and crocodiles.

The huge inland sea spawned by more than a week of heavy rain across Queensland is making its way along the Fitzroy River toward the ocean - and Rockhampton lies in the way.

As waters drain, the city of 75,000 people is holding its breath. The river has already burst its banks, inundating houses and businesses. Up to 500 people who live along the river have evacuated their homes.

Mayor Brad Carter said that large swathes of the city might be under water for another two weeks. Adding to the woes, he said floods were threatening Rockhampton's sewage treatment plants and officials may seek to discharge some effluent directly into the swollen river system.

Rockhampton is the latest of 22 cities and towns in Queensland to be swamped by floods that began building just before Christmas - the worst effects of an unusually wet summer in the tropical region. No one has died in Rockhampton, but swollen rivers and flooding have killed 10 people in Queensland since late November.

The flooded area covers the size of France and Germany combined and 200,000 people have been affected.

Wendy White, who owns a clothing shop in Rockhampton, said she was worried about her merchandise and equipment as the waters rise. "We've taken everything about two feet up off the floor ... my machines are above that and then everything, all my stock is stacked on that," she said. "So it'd be a case of, if the water does come in, we'll have to mop up before we can set up to start trading again."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the cost associated with the flooding will likely reach many hundreds of millions, and has announced relief funding worth millions. Rains have eased, and water levels have been dropping in some towns in Queensland. Across the state, some 1,000 people are living in evacuation centres and it may be a month before the floodwaters dry up completely.

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