Floods hit two Australian states, thousands evacuated

Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:20am EST
 

By James Grubel

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Massive summer floods have killed four people and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes across two Australian states on Tuesday, disrupting air and rail travel and coal production.

A deluge fed by the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald dumped more than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain in some areas of the Queensland and New South Wales states over the past three days, swelling rivers and swamping towns.

The worst-hit areas were around Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Ipswich in the Queensland state, and around the northern New South Wales towns of Grafton and Lismore.

A fleet of 14 helicopters rescued more than 1,000 people across Queensland overnight and rescue efforts continued on Tuesday.

"Across Queensland the wild weather has broken a lot of hearts," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Among the four people killed was a three-year old boy, who died in hospital after being hit by a falling tree as he and his mother watched floodwaters in parts of Brisbane, Australia's third largest city.

In Bundaberg, one of the worst hit towns, more than 2,000 homes were swamped and 7,500 people evacuated. People clung to rooftops calling on passing boats to rescue them and television footage showed people being winched from floodwaters.

Brisbane residents have been warned to boil all drinking water as the city's main water treatment plant had been shut, unable to cope with the torrent of muddy water flowing down stream and swelling the Brisbane River.   Continued...

 
Floodwaters from the Burnett River inundate parts of Bundaberg, 300kms (186 miles) north of Brisbane January 29, 2013 in this handout picture made available by the Queensland Premier's office. REUTERS/Campbell Newman/Office of the Premier of Queensland/Handout