Australian Towns Brace For More Flooding; Death Toll Rises


Rising floodwaters cut off the last ground route into the eastern Australian city of Rockhampton on Monday, as police pegged the number of people affected by prolonged flooding at 200,000.

Flooding also put increasing pressure on the southern Queensland cities of St. George and Surat, even as floodwaters receded in the communities farther to the north, including Emerald.

Police said ten people have died as a result of flooding since November 30.

The latest fatality involved an occupant of a car that tried to cross flooded ground between Muttaburra and Aramac in western Queensland, according to police.

Police have not recovered the man's body, but they presume he drowned after the car was swept away by swift waters Sunday. Two other people in the car were rescued unharmed.

Police, emergency services and military crews continued working to resupply Rockhampton and other communities with supplies, even after the last road leading into the town succumbed to flooding, acting Assistant Police Commissioner Alistair Dawson said.

Although the regional airport is flooded, helicopters ferrying supplies are landing on a dry portion of runway. Resupplying the city of 75,000 is crucial, he said.

"We think that Rockhampton could be isolated probably for anywhere along about a week or so," he said.

The airport, which closed Sunday, is expected to remain closed for weeks, according to Emergency Management Queensland.

The seasonal flooding afflicting Queensland intensified about a week ago after monsoon rains caused rivers to spill their banks and reach record levels.

Forecasters said it could be days before conditions improve.