30 Jan 2013

Australia flood forces thousands from homes

10:37 pm on 30 January 2013

Vast areas of land in New South Wales are underwater and thousands have been evacuated from their homes, but many communities in the Australian state appear to have escaped the worst of the floods.

Record flooding has swamped northern New South Wales where large areas of land are underwater and a natural disaster has been declared. In Queensland, communities are waiting for water to recede to begin the clean-up.

The death toll from the Queensland floods has risen to six, with the discovery of two bodies on Wednesday, the ABC reports.

Two men believed to be from Taiwan have been missing since the weekend.

The farm contract workers disappeared in the Lockyer Valley on Sunday morning. The pair, aged 35 and 24, had been driving separate cars.

A man's boy was found in a flooded creek and police divers found a second body a few hours later.

On the Darling Downs in southern Queensland, residents are being warned to brace for more extreme weather and possible flash flooding on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Australian Defence Force personnel has headed to the severely flooded city of Bundaberg to help with the clean-up.

Four Blackhawk helicopter crews have switched their focus from evacuations to helping with the recovery and Air Force planes are ferrying in fuel, food and water.

Floodwaters have been dropping after they peaked on Tuesday at 9.53 metres and plans are in place to resupply supermarkets and start the massive recovery effort.

About 7000 people evacuated from the city, north of Brisbane, are waiting to return home.

Residents of isolated towns across much of the state say they could run out of essential supplies as trucks can't get through. However, Brisbane's water supply is no longer under threat, after a treatment plant was repaired.

Some 41,000 people are isolated across New South Wales where flood warnings for 14 rivers are in place.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from homes in the north of the state. The Clarence River has risen slightly on the incoming tide at Maclean, bringing it within 0.2 metres of the town's levee on Wednesday afternoon.

The levee in the town of Grafton held back a record 8.1 metre flood, though concerns remained for communities downstream.