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Flash floods claim more lives in Queensland

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-10

Flash floods inundated the Australian city of Toowoomba on Monday, killing at least four people in the latest deadly incident since floodwaters swamped vast areas of Queensland. Fourteen people have died in the floods since late November.

AFP - Flash floods swept through an Australian city Monday, killing at least four people, trapping others in cars and leaving some clinging to trees as relentless rains brought more misery to a region battling its worst flooding in decades.

The raging torrent of muddy water picked up cars and tossed them like toys, carried away furniture as it washed through stores and prompted scores of emergency calls as it swamped Toowoomba, a city of about 90,000 in Queensland state in the northeast.
 
At least four people were killed, including two children, state Premier Anna Bligh told a late-night news conference.
 
“Mother Nature has unleashed something shocking on Toowoomba,” Bligh said, saying the deluge came out of nowhere during a rainstorm.
 
She said a 26-foot (eight-meter) wall of water was coursing through the low-lying communities from Toowoomba and eastward toward the state capital, Brisbane.
 
Officials urged residents of towns downstream from Toowoomba to immediately move to higher ground.
 
Bligh said about 30 people were isolated in a school in the town of Grantham, and 46 people had already been rescued by helicopters from rooftops in town after town.
 
Darkness and fog prohibited the state emergency service helicopters from overnight rescues but she said search and rescue operations would continue at first light Tuesday.
 
Video taken in Toowoomba shows a man clutching a tree as the gushing water sweeps down a street, pushing vehicles off the road, into each other and flinging one van into trees. One small sedan was tossed about in murky brown rapids.
 
“This is without a doubt our darkest hour of the last (two weeks),” Bligh told reporters.
 
The waters disappeared almost as fast as they arrived, leaving debris strewn throughout downtown Toowoomba and -- in one place -- cars piled atop one another.
 
It was the latest drama for water-weary Queensland, which has been devastated by weeks of pounding rains and overflowing rivers. Fourteen people have died since late November and about 200,000 have been affected by the floods. Roads and rail lines have been cut, Queensland’s big-exporting coal mine industry has virtually shut down, and cattle ranching and farming across a large part of the state are at a standstill.
 
Queensland officials have said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could be as high as $5 billion.
 
Some areas of Queensland have had more than 13 inches (343 millimeters) of rain in the past 24 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology said Monday.
 
Toowoomba resident Sarah Gordon said she saw at least 15 cars washed away.
 
“A lot of cars got swept down the road ... right down the creek,” she
 
said. “A few people were trapped, but they luckily got out.”
 
Muddy waters also flowed through the main street in Gympie, one of more than 40 Queensland communities to be drenched by overflowing rivers. Gympie residents were frantically sandbagging buildings, but about a dozen businesses were inundated by Monday and dozens more were at risk as the Mary River burst its banks and kept rising.
 
The flooding in Gympie, home to 16,000 people, was not as bad as that elsewhere in recent weeks, when entire towns were submerged beneath an inland sea the size of France and Germany combined. But it was a sign the ground has little capacity left to soak up any more moisture, so any new rain is likely to make matters worse, officials said.
 
The water was 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep at Gympie’s Royal Hotel.
 
“You want to cry,” assistant manager Jess Philpot said. “It’s going to
 
go up to the roof.”
 
Residents of Dalby, west of Brisbane, were evacuated as rising waters threatened to inundate homes that had just begun drying out after flooding two weeks ago.
 
Mayor Ray Brown said the town has been cut in half by Myall Creek, which also overflowed on Dec. 27, leaving 100 homes awash in murky water.
 
Residents of some of the affected communities have returned home and begun mopping up sludge left behind by the floods, while others -- including in the city of Rockhampton, home to 75,000 people -- are still waiting for floodwaters to recede to start the cleanup.

 

 

Date created : 2011-01-10

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