Rescuers help Australia flood victims as waters recede

The Australian state of Queensland is continuing to suffer floods in the wake of tropical cyclone Oswald.

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Rescue workers in Australia are working to help people affected by floods which have inundated two eastern states.

In Queensland, helicopters rescued more than 1,000 people stranded in the city of Bundaberg as the Burnett River burst its banks, flooding 2,000 homes.

In New South Wales, Grafton escaped the worst of the flooding as the Clarence River peaked below the city's levees.

The waters are now beginning to drop gradually as troops prepare for a mammoth recovery effort and clean-up.

Tropical Cyclone Oswald, which triggered the flooding, is now heading out to sea south of Sydney.

Tens of thousands were left isolated or displaced by the torrent, which peaked in most areas late on Tuesday.

Four people are now known to have died in the severe weather, after a toddler who was hit by a falling tree in Brisbane died on Monday.

It comes two years after severe flooding in southern Queensland, including in the state capital Brisbane, that left 35 people dead and tens of thousands of homes flooded.

"We're planning to have some troops on the ground hopefully within the next 24 hours. It looks like waters will recede and we'll be able to gain access," Brigadier Greg Bilton told reporters.

'Dangerous situation'

"Severe major flooding is being experienced in the Burnett [river] catchment area," the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said in its latest statement.

It added: "Record major flooding continues at Bundaberg with the river rising slowly above 9.5m (31ft) in the last few hours."

The Burnett river is also running more than 1.5m (4.9ft) higher than the last serious flooding in December 2010.

Aerial shot of Bundaberg on 29 January 2013 State Premier Campbell Newman called the scene at Bundaberg "extraordinary"

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey said that the flood levels will be some of the highest recorded for the whole of the Bundaberg and Burnett region.

"The main priority at the moment on the ground is life and we really do implore people to go to the highest points, listen to the emergency service workers and their directions," he said.

Some 7,500 people are reported to have been displaced in the city of Bundaberg, with more than 1,500 taking shelter in evacuation centres.

About 1,000 people were plucked from the roofs of their homes by helicopters in daring evening rescues after rivers broke their banks late on Monday.

Two air force transport planes are evacuating patients from the local hospital and Prime Minister Julia Gillard said 100 military personnel were being sent to help out.

Queensland State Premier Campbell Newman has praised the civilian and military rescue crews, saying their bravery was "what saved the day".

The BoM has warned that "major flooding is continuing in the Logan River", with the towns of Waterford and Eagleby now threatened.

Map

In Brisbane, low-lying parts of the central business district were flooded but the impact on residential areas was less than expected, ABC News said.

Officials in the city said that the flooding was not as bad as in 2011, when 22,000 homes were flooded and the damage to infrastructure cost $400m (£250m).

However, Brisbane's Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, told the Herald Sun newspaper that high tides in coming days would see river levels rise again.

"At this stage anyway, it's good news," he said.

Brisbane residents have been advised to cut down on water use and boil drinking water, after the floods inundated treatment plants. The authorities have warned that some suburbs may run out of water on Wednesday.

In New South Wales, parts of which saw torrential rain on Monday as the cyclone moved south, 2,500 people were told to evacuate from the city of Grafton, where levees were threatened by rising water.

"On Thursday and Friday we were nearly in drought conditions. Here we are on Tuesday morning talking about the biggest flood on the history books," Mayor Richie Williamson told reporters.

Although river levels peaked at a record 8.1m this was below the city's protective levees, prompting the state premier Barry O'Farrell to say: "It does appear as though the worst of it is over".

The authorities estimate that more than 40,000 people have been isolated by floodwaters in the state's north, although no homes are reported to have been damaged there.

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