29 Jan 2013

Australia flood disaster moves south

10:20 pm on 29 January 2013

Extreme weather that has caused four deaths and swamped towns in the Australian state of Queensland has moved south, with thousands of people cut off by floods in northern New South Wales.

The weather front has beaten a devastating path down the coast to New South Wales where thousands of people are cut off by rising floodwaters.

The crisis has claimed four lives, including a three-year-old boy who was hit by a falling tree in Brisbane.

Floodwaters in Queensland's flood-stricken city of Bundaberg peaked on Tuesday night but more than 7000 people are unable to return to their homes.

Over 2000 homes were swamped and residents had to be rescued from roofs by helicopter.

River levels in Brisbane and Ipswitch were not as high as feared and there has been minimal property damage, but authorities are asking residents in the greater Brisbane area to conserve drinking water, the ABC reports.

Supplies have been disrupted after muddy floodwaters forced a treatment plant to be shut down.

Premier Campbell Newman has urged Queenslanders to support each other.

"It's incredible to see the spirit of Queenslanders on the streets of their cities and towns as they grapple with what is a big crisis indeed."

Regions including Gympie, Gladstone and the Lockyer Valley are in clean-up mode, while Rockhampton will see a flood peak at the weekend.

In New South Wales, the northern town of Grafton escaped a major disaster despite the Clarence River exceeding new levels, but concern has shifted for communities downstream.

State Emergency Services (SES) Deputy Commissioner Steve Pearce said some areas in the north of the state had been hit with over half a metre of rain.