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Australia floods: Crocodiles ‘lurk’ as residents flee from flooded city

Floods that have cut air, rail and road links to an Australian coastal city are now threatening its sewage plant, and waters are still expected to rise another few feet before peaking today.

Residents of Rockhampton made their way in boats through waters that reached waist-high in some areas earlier this week but were warned not to wade into them since snakes and crocodiles could be lurking.

A huge inland sea spawned by more than a week of heavy rain across Queensland state is making its way along the Fitzroy river toward the ocean — and Rockhampton lies in the way. The city of 75,000 people is expected to see flood levels rise another few feet today.

The river has already burst its banks, inundating houses and businesses in waters ranging from a few inches to waist-deep. Up to 500 people who live along the river have evacuated their homes. Air and rail links to the city were cut and only one main road remained open.

Brad Carter, mayor of Rockhampton, said yesterday that large swathes of the city might be under water for another two weeks.

Authorities have warned residents to stay out of floodwaters for their own safety, saying the biggest risk is from fast-moving currents powerful enough to sweep cars from roadways. At least two people have drowned after being swept away in their cars.

Residents have reported seeing more snakes than usual as the animals move around looking for dry ground. Saltwater crocodiles have been spotted in the Fitzroy river.

Mr Carter said: “We do not think they are a risk to public safety if people keep out of the waters, but if people do enter the waters their safety cannot be guaranteed.”

Wendy Hilcher, an animal welfare worker, said fears about snakes and crocodiles were hampering her group's efforts to rescue pets left behind by people who had left their homes in flooded areas of the city.

“It's not just the safety aspect of getting to these places, it's what's in the water itself,” said Ms Hilcher, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “If it gets too dangerous, we have to get out of there.”

Rockhampton is the latest of 22 cities and towns in Queensland to be swamped by floods that began building just before Christmas.

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

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