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Clean-up launched after deadly Australia floods

30 january 2013, 18:54
0
©AFP
©AFP
A mammoth clean-up operation began in Australia's flood-hit northeast Wednesday after waters began to recede, as the death toll from storms reached five and thousands of homes were left swamped, AFP reports.

While the worst of the deluge appeared over, many homes remained without power and there were fears of drinking water shortages after rivers swollen by torrential rain from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald breached their banks this week.

A fifth person was confirmed dead Wednesday in northern Queensland state after police had reported him missing since Sunday. His body was recovered from a car found submerged near Gatton, west of the state capital Brisbane.

He was one of two missing men, a Malaysian and a Taiwanese, both reportedly in Australia on a working holiday. It was not immediately known which of their bodies had been recovered.

A second car was also found under water in the same area but there was no sign of the driver.

"It is not known if the men were known to each other or were travelling in convoy," police said.

"We're still searching for the second man," a spokesman added.

In worst-hit Bundaberg, which was devastated as the Burnett River peaked at a record 9.6 metres (32 feet), authorities moved into recovery mode after the floods inundated about 2,000 homes and 200 businesses.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said soldiers were en route to the sugar-farming town where more than 7,500 residents have been forced to seek refuge in evacuation shelters or with family and friends.

"This morning we have 120 soldiers from the Enoggera army barracks in 44 vehicles heading north to Bundaberg," Newman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

More army resources were on standby to help in Bundaberg and other surrounding flood-hit communities, he added.

An ABC reporter in the town said petrol stations had run out of fuel while a helicopter and boats were resupplying some of the smaller settlements around the area that remain cut off.

Meanwhile police said three people, including two teenage girls and a 25-year-old man, had been charged with looting in the Queensland town of Gympie during flooding there.

While Brisbane escaped the worst of the floodwaters, the deluge damaged water treatment plants and Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said there were concerns parts of the city of two million could run out of water.

"There is still a very real concern that water could run out," he told reporters, although Newman said provisions were in place to supply bottled water to any areas affected.

In New South Wales, a tense night for residents in the northern town of Maclean ended in relief when the Clarence River peaked just below its levee banks at 3.1 metres.

Some 750 people were evacuated as a precaution but were Wednesday given the all-clear to return home, as were thousands evacuated in nearby Grafton, where levees also held to prevent a major disaster.

Acting New South Wales Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas said rescue operations and flood management in the state had gone well.

"It needs to be said that 3,700 requests for assistance in NSW in relation to the flooding, 55 flood rescues and over 1,500 people unfortunately under evacuation orders -- I have to say it has gone very well," Kaldas said.

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