Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Flood victims return to muddy homes

A rural industrial area, south of Rockhampton, Australia, is overwhelmed by floodwaters (AP)
A rural industrial area, south of Rockhampton, Australia, is overwhelmed by floodwaters (AP)
The suburb of Depot Hill in Rockhampton, Australia, is inundated with floodwaters (AP)
Locals in their boat tie up to a flooded house in Rockhampton, Australia (AP)

Evacuated victims have begun returning to homes caked in sludge as Australia's flood crisis eased.

But one sand-bagged town watched nervously as a swollen river level crept higher and forecasters warned of more rain.

Officials said they were moving from the emergency phase into clean-up as flood water levels stabilised in the hard-hit coastal city of Rockhampton and dropped further in towns further inland.

But in Dalby, east of Condamine, officials said floodwaters were rising faster than expected and were expected to peak on Friday rather than the weekend. The town's swollen creek is expected to inundate yards and a caravan park, but not to enter houses.

Queensland state has been in the grip of Australia's worst flooding in some 50 years since drenching tropical rains fell for days starting just before Christmas.

At its worst, an area the size of France and Germany combined was covered with water, some 40 townships were inundated and nearly 4,000 people evacuated. Police say 10 people have died in swollen rivers or floodwaters in Queensland since late November.

The flooding shut some 40 coal mines in the state, pushing up global prices, and has hurt wheat, mango, sugar cane and other crops. Road and rail links have been washed away in many places, and officials warn it could be months before they are restored so industry and other activity can return to normal.

Some of the 150 people of Condamine went home in a convoy for the first time since everyone in the small cattle-ranch supply town 190 miles west of Brisbane, the state capital, was evacuated on December 30 to escape rising floodwaters.

They found the waters gone, but that 42 of the town's 60 houses had been inundated by the flood.

In St George, where levies of earth and sandbags have been built around dozens of homes, officials said the floods' peak was now expected to be lower than originally thought, meaning fewer than 30 homes in the town of some 2,500 people were at risk.

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