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19 April 2024

Coastal Queensland braces for 30-ft flood waters


Floods that have inundated 22  Australian towns and forced more than 200,000 from their homes  headed towards the northeast coast on New Year's Day, forcing  further evacuations and warnings of 30-ft flood waters. 

Australia has endured its wettest spring on record,  causing six river systems in tropical Queensland to flood, as  soaring temperatures in the states of Victoria and South  Australia sparked warnings of devastating bushfires.

The rain has flooded coal mines and hit farming hard, with  many roads still impassable, and prompted warnings of the  dangers of crocodiles and snakes in flooded homes. 

The inland sea that stretches across Queensland is dotted  with the roofs of flooded homes, islands of dry ground crowded  with stranded livestock and small boats ferrying people and  emergency supplies.   

On Saturday, coastal areas were preparing for the worst.  Evacuations were under way in the town of Rockhampton where  the Fitzroy River, one of Australia's largest river systems,  was expected to flood. 

The town's airport was closed to commercial flights, while  relief officials warned the floods would likely reach more  than nine metres (30 ft) in height. 

Although emergency government funds have been made  available to those worst hit to help with immediate needs,  Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Saturday the crisis was  far from over. 

"Of course there are a lot more things we're going to do  and going to need to do to help Queenslanders with these  devastating floods," she told reporters. 

Bundaberg resident Sandy Kiddle hugged Gillard as she told   of seeing her house flooded.   

"It was just a sea of water and I thought the beach would   never come to our house," Kiddle told Gillard at an evacuation   centre.   

As the northeast struggled to recover, a new storm was  brewing off the coast of mineral-rich Western Australia. 

A weather system which forecasters said could become a  tropical cyclone brought gale-force winds, forcing several  leading oil producers to halt operations.