Flooded Aussie town cuts supplies over snake risk

A Rockhampton man uses an umbrella to fend off rain as he views the burgeoning Fitzroy River. Despite the fresh rains, the overflowing river in the inundated city of Rockhampton is slowly receding. (AP)

A flooded Australian town cut emergency supplies Thursday to "totally irresponsible" residents who have refused to leave their homes, saying they were putting personnel at risk from snakes.

Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said some families were keeping children in their waterbound residences, increasing hazards for emergency staff who have to boat and wade through snake-infested waters to bring food and medicine.

"We have taken a decision, and we make it very clear, that we cannot put emergency services resources at risk bringing in those supplies," Carter told reporters.

"They have to now respect and understand that because they make that choice... they will not be getting resupply of essential services, goods and grocery items provided by emergency services personnel."

Carter said crews had doorknocked more than 2,000 homes, making it inconceivable that people had not been aware of the risks of refusing to evacuate.

He denied claims he was "starving them out" but said the regional hub of 75,000 people, virtually surrounded by some of the worst floods on record, was facing a "unique" set of circumstances.

"Flood levels are going to remain very high for at least another seven days which will making living in that kind of environment... very uncomfortable," he said.

The roaring Fitzroy River held steady at 9.2 metres (30 feet) overnight and Carter said forecasters believed it would not creep any higher, despite fresh downpours over the sodden city.

But the worst was far from over, with floodwaters to remain at current levels for several days and above 8.5 metres for at least a week, leaving hundreds of evacuees homeless and thousands more stranded in their properties.

The mucky waters are teeming with some of Australia's most poisonous snakes and crocodiles, while debris and sewage pose major health and safety dangers for emergency crews ferrying food and other essentials to cut off streets.

Food and medical drops would continue to isolated rural properties and towns, but Carter said those in urban Rockhampton whose homes were surrounded by water should consider evacuating.

Acting police superintendent David Peff said wading into the waters - sometimes up to chest height - was a grave danger for his men and backed the mayor's pleas for residents to leave their homes.

"Every time we put police or SES (State Emergency Service) people into that water - and... there's a lot of snakes - my personal concern is people that are helping will end up being bitten by a snake," Peff told reporters.
"The thing I don't want to see is people getting sick or worse still, killed, through doing something that we really don't need to do."

Between 200 and 300 homes had water above their floorboards and about 2,000 to 3,000 are affected in some way.

Only one road route into the town remains open, while the railway is closed along with the flooded airport, which is likely to remain shut for about another three weeks because of fears the water has softened the tarmac.

 

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