Australian floods peaking; thousands in shelters
APBRISBANE--Rescuers helped drivers escape swift floodwaters and used helicopters to pluck stranded people from rooftops in northeast Australia on Tuesday after torrential rains flooded thousands of homes and businesses, killed four and forced thousands to huddle in shelters.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Floodwaters peaked in most of the worst-hit areas by evening. Some communities that were initially expected to be inundated appeared to have escaped major damage, with levees holding back the muddy water in one city that was in the high danger zone. But officials were still urging caution, as fast-moving floodwaters in New South Wales prompted 50 rescues, most involving drivers stuck in cars swept away by the current.
In the hardest-hit city of Bundaberg in Queensland, 385 kilometers (240 miles) north of Brisbane, rescue crews plucked 1,000 people to safety after the river that runs through town broke its banks, sending murky water pouring into streets and homes. Several people had to be rescued from the roofs of their waterlogged houses, while hospital patients were airlifted to Brisbane as a precaution.
“Listen to the roar of the water — that's not helicopters,” Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said. “You see a lot of locations where there are literally sort of rapids. There's white water out there, so it is very dangerous.”
Between 2,500 and 3,000 homes and 200 to 300 businesses were inundated with water, Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said. Around 1,500 residents were hunkered down in evacuation centers as they waited for the waters to recede.