23 May 2009

Thousands forced to flee from eastern Australian floods

9:50 pm on 23 May 2009

Thousands more people in Australia's flood-hit east were told to leave their homes on Saturday as gale-force winds lashed the coast of northern New South Wales.

One man has died, up to 20,000 people have been cut off by rising water and dozens have been rescued. Thousands of hectares of northern New South Wales are under water.

Over the past few days floodwaters have washed cars into the sea and huge waves have pounded major ports, including the world's biggest coal export port, Newcastle.

Floodwaters have engulfed homes, while beaches were lashed by winds of up to 80 kph. Several swollen rivers have burst their banks.

The body of a 70-year-old man was found near a submerged car in floodwaters at Raleigh south of Coffs Harbour on Friday afternoon.

Southern Queensland braces for more flooding too

Meanwhile, low-lying littoral areas in south-eastern Queensland are on the alert for more flooding.

A severe weather warning for damaging winds, abnormally high tides and dangerous surf has been issued for the south-east coast and Fraser Island.

The ABC reports that beaches on the Gold Coast are expected to remain closed again on Saturday.