SYDNEY (AFP) - Three people were dead and dozens plucked from roofs and marooned cars in dramatic air rescues in north-eastern Australia today as severe floods swept through two states, inundating hundreds of homes.
The bodies of two men swept away by floodwaters were found today, one in the Queensland state capital Brisbane and another further north at Gympie, following the earlier discovery of an elderly man's body near the city of Bundaberg.
A pregnant woman and her three-year-old son were rushed to hospital after a large tree fell on them as they were walking this morning in Brisbane. They were reported to have head injuries.
There were dozens of dramatic rescues as rapidly rising waters left people suddenly stranded, including one family who had to zip their infant son into a waterproof bag to be winched to safety by a helicopter as floods surrounded their car.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said four cities were facing major flooding in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Oswald with 1,200 homes already under water in Bundaberg where record floods forced dozens to retreat to their roofs.
Some 18 people there had been airlifted by late morning but at least 12 others were still awaiting help, with 100 troops deployed to assist with rescues and two military aircraft en route, according to mayor Mal Forman.
Three people were missing in Bundaberg, home to about 50,000 people 360km north of Brisbane, and Newman described the unfolding emergency there as "critical" with as many as 2,000 homes expected to flood.
"Even though we have helicopters, the weather conditions are appalling and dangerous for flying. The floodwaters are very swift and it's also dangerous to go out in flood boats," he said.
Deputy mayor David Batt said "hundreds of people, if not thousands of people, will be looking for evacuation in the next few hours" as the swollen Burnett River surged beyond nine metres, breaking all records.