Australia floods: Woman and children found dead in river

Police guard the site where a car left the road and entered the Tweed River. Image copyright ABC
Image caption The family's car was caught in floodwaters in New South Wales

A mother and her two children have drowned after their car plunged into floodwaters in Australia.

Their bodies were recovered from a swollen New South Wales (NSW) river on Tuesday following torrential rain in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

An eight-year-old girl, also part of the family, escaped the vehicle before running to a house for help.

At least three other people have died in Australia's floods since the storm made landfall a week ago, police said.

Authorities have not named the latest victims, but local media said they included a seven-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl.

Rescue attempt

Locals had tried to rescue the family from Tweed River at Tumbulgum, about 1,200km (745 miles) south of where the cyclone first hit.

"It was just too deep," one man, Ben Darcy, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

"We couldn't get down far enough. We swam around and dived down but we couldn't see a thing."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The flooded Tweed River is now receding

The girl who survived was taken to hospital with neck pain and leg cuts, authorities said. She has been reunited with family members.

"She is obviously traumatised by the incident," Chief Inspector Mick Dempsey, from NSW Police, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Police said the road was closed at the time of the tragedy.

Flooding to continue

Authorities warned floodwaters in Rockhampton, in central Queensland, were not expected to peak until Thursday.

The city's Fitzroy River is predicted to reach 9m, putting hundreds of homes and businesses at risk of inundation.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said "considerable resources" were being diverted to the city.

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Media captionLismore in New South Wales

"This has been a natural disaster which has spread the length and breadth of the east coast of Australia," he said.

"We share the anxiety and concern of those who have loved ones that are missing in the floods."

Cyclone Debbie pounded northern Queensland as a category four system before moving south as a tropical storm.

The storm is now moving towards New Zealand, triggering warnings of potential flooding and landslips there.

The Insurance Council of Australia has estimated the damage bill could reach AS$1bn ($770m).

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