Australia floods still rising with two dead, four missing

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BEENLEIGH, Australia, April 1, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – Flooded rivers were still
rising Saturday in two Australian states with two women dead and four people
missing after torrential rains in the wake of a powerful tropical cyclone.

Queensland police warned that the Logan River, which runs through
Beenleigh south of Brisbane, would not hit peak flood levels for several more
hours while the city of Rockhampton to the north was also facing a major
threat.

Commissioner Ian Stewart warned there was “still a major risk to the
community around Logan and further south caused by that flooding situation.”

Rockhampton, with a population of over 80,000 on the Fitzroy River, was
expected to suffer flood levels not seen for a century by Wednesday and
Stewart urged residents in low-lying areas to leave.

“By Wednesday, we will be at peak flooding in Rockhampton,” he said.

“It won’t just be on Wednesday, it will be a gradual rise, so I encourage
people to move now.”

Queensland police tweeted “we currently have four people missing… that
we have serious concerns about,” but provided no further detail.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from a string of towns in
Queensland and New South Wales as the floods move south towards Ballina.
Category four Cyclone Debbie hit northeastern Australia on Tuesday between
Bowen and Airlie Beach ripping up trees and causing widespread damage that is
still being assessed.

It was downgraded to a tropical low as it tracked southeast. But the storm
still packed damaging winds and dumped huge amounts of rain all the way down
the east coast to Sydney and beyond before blowing out over the Tasman Sea.

Police on Friday found the body of a woman who disappeared in floodwaters
near Murwillumbah just south of the Queensland border.

And a 64-year-old woman, whose vehicle was swept off a causeway on a
property in Gungal, in the Hunter Valley south of Sydney was also found dead
Friday.

Lismore, south of Murwillumbah was among the worst flooded towns on Friday
with Tweed Heads, Kingscliff and Murwillumbah also subject to evacuation
orders.

Just to the north the popular Queensland tourist city of Gold Coast and
surrounds were also inundated.

In areas further north where the cyclone made landfall, water and power
were still being restored.

Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsunday islands, where power went down for more
than 50,000 people, bore the brunt of the cyclone.

The military has mobilised 1,300 soldiers for the clean-up, with
helicopters and planes deploying to restore infrastructure and supply
emergency food, water and fuel.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared the Queensland and northern
NSW regions disaster zones, adding that the damage bill could top Aus$1
billion (US $770 million).

The council’s chief Rob Whelan compared Debbie it to Cyclone Oswald, a
category five storm which hit in 2013 and caused over Aus$1 billion in
damage.

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