Australia

Cyclone Debbie: Two women killed as floods hit eastern Australia

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Media captionRescuers battle floodwater

Two women have died and more people are feared to have drowned as two Australian states are hit by floods in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, authorities say.

The body of a woman who disappeared from an area just south of the Queensland border on Thursday was found by a family member.

The second victim died after the car she was in was swept away.

Both incidents occurred in New South Wales (NSW). The storm has moved out to sea after making landfall on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from northern NSW and southern Queensland.

The woman found by a member of her family on Friday had "disappeared in floodwaters overnight" from a rural property in Upper Burringbar, near Murwillumbah, NSW police said.

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Image caption Residents of Murwillumbah use a boat to make their way through the streets

Lismore, south of Murwillumbah near the NSW coast, was one of the worst-hit areas, with the State Emergency Service (SES) warning of 3m (10ft) flood levels in the town.

In many towns floodwaters are continuing to rise after the category four cyclone saw some areas experience three times their average monthly rainfall on Thursday alone.

Some people's pleas for help had gone unanswered because it was too dangerous to try to reach them, he added.

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Image caption The floodwaters left vehicles stranded on highways in the town of Bowen, Queensland

In Queensland, the Gold Coast and other nearby regions have received between 10cm and 30cm (4in to 12in) of rainfall in just two days, officials said.

In other developments:

  • More than 2,000 Queensland schools remained closed on Friday due to flooding
  • About 80,000 people lost power in NSW, adding to tens of thousands without electricity in Queensland
  • One town, Upper Springbrook, recorded almost 80cm (31ins) of rain on Thursday
  • Firefighters had "saved the lives" of at least 85 people trapped in floods, Queensland authorities said
  • Emergency crews may not reach some areas until Saturday, Mr Morrow said

The cyclone caused major damage to buildings, roads and crops when arrived on Tuesday carrying winds of up to 260 km/h (160 mph).

It is also likely to have damaged the Great Barrier Reef, marine experts warned.

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Media captionCyclone Debbie seen from space.

Tourism operators across Queensland reported cancellations and anticipated long-term disruption to the industry.

Thousands of insurance claims have already been filed, but the state's insurers said it was too early to accurately assess the cost of the damage.

The military has mobilised hundreds of soldiers to help with the clean-up operation, with helicopters on hand to help with emergency supplies such as food, water and fuel.

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