BEENLEIGH (Australia) • Flooded rivers were still rising yesterday in the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, with the death toll climbing to four after torrential rain in the wake of a powerful tropical cyclone.
Three people were also missing in flood-hit south-east Queensland, with police conducting searches, reported The Courier Mail. The death toll is expected to rise further.
Police last Friday found the body of a woman who disappeared in flood waters near Murwillumbah, just south of the Queensland border. And a 64-year-old woman, whose vehicle was swept off a causeway on a property in Gungal, in the Hunter Valley south of Sydney, was also found dead last Friday, reported news agency Agence France-Presse.
Yesterday, the body of a 45-year-old man was located at a caravan park at Tweed Valley Way, South Murwillumbah, in New South Wales. Another man from Eagleby was also found by emergency crews not far from where he was last seen, reported The Courier Mail.
Queensland police warned that the Logan River, which runs through Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, would hit peak flood levels during the afternoon, while further north, the city of Rockhampton was also facing a serious threat, reported Agence France-Presse.
Number of states affected - Queensland and New South Wales
Number of people dead
Number of people missing
(S$1.07 billion) Estimated damage bill (Insurance Council of Australia)
Number of homes without power
Number of soldiers deployed for cleanup operations
Queensland's Police Commissioner Ian Stewart warned there was "still a major risk to the community around Logan and further south caused by that flooding situation".
Rockhampton, with a population of more than 80,000 on the Fitzroy River, was expected to suffer flood levels not seen for a century and Mr Stewart urged residents in low-lying areas to leave.
"By Wednesday, we will be at peak flooding in Rockhampton," he said. "It will be a gradual rise, so I encourage people to move now."
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from a string of towns in Queensland and New South Wales as the floods move south towards Ballina, cutting roads. Others have tried to stick it out to save their properties.
The scene was grim along the Logan River. Ms Casey Bently, a 47-year-old mechanic from North Maclean, appeared visibly upset as she looked at her house, submerged to the roof.
"We got as much out as we could in the short time that we had," she said. "People have lost everything. I'd only just finished renovating the house, and it is all gone again now."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on residents in affected areas to exercise caution. "In many parts of the country, you will see flood waters continuing to rise over the next days," he told reporters.
"This is a very dangerous time in these flooded areas. I want to say to everybody who is affected by these floods - do not go into flooded waters. Do not cross flooded roads."
Category 4 Cyclone Debbie hit north-eastern Australia last Tuesday between Bowen and Airlie Beach, ripping up trees and causing widespread damage that is still being assessed. It was downgraded to a tropical low as it tracked south-east, still packing high winds and dumping huge amounts of rain all down the east coast to Sydney and beyond before blowing out over the Tasman Sea.