Australia floods: Two dead, tens of thousands stranded

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Sydney | Updated: April 1, 2017 8:39:56 AM

Tens of thousands of Australians were stranded by floodwaters on Saturday after the remnants of a powerful cyclone swept along the country's east coast, cutting roads, destroying bridges and killing two people.

Flood sirens sounded in several towns on Friday, prompting stranded residents to climb on to roofs of flooded homes to await rescue, but fast-moving water and high winds hindered emergency crews reaching several areas. (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of Australians were stranded by floodwaters on Saturday after the remnants of a powerful cyclone swept along the country’s east coast, cutting roads, destroying bridges and killing two people. The disaster zone from ex-Cyclone Debbie stretched 1,000 km (600 miles) from Queensland state’s tropical resort islands and Gold Coast tourist strip to the farmlands of New South Wales state, with more than 100,00 homes without power. Six large rivers had reached major flood levels and were still rising in several areas, said the Bureau of Meteorology. Authorities ordered further evacuations in parts of northern New South Wales on Saturday, while the city of Rockhampton in Queensland state is bracing for record-level flooding next week, Queensland Police said.

Flood sirens sounded in several towns on Friday, prompting stranded residents to climb on to roofs of flooded homes to await rescue, but fast-moving water and high winds hindered emergency crews reaching several areas.

Police said they recovered the bodies of two women from floodwaters late on Friday, the first reported deaths since Cyclone Debbie hit on Tuesday. One was found on a swamped property and the other retrieved by police divers from a car that had been swept off a flooded bridge.

Authorities fear more people may have died overnight as floodwaters continued to rise.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged people to heed the advice of authorities.

“This is a very dangerous time in these flooded areas. I want to say to everybody who is affected by these floods – do not go into flooded waters,” he told reporters on Saturday.

Cyclone Debbie, a category four storm, one short of the most powerful level five, pounded Queensland state on Tuesday, smashing tourist resorts, bringing down power lines and shutting down coal mines.

Australia’s Defence Force was deployed to help deliver medical personnel and supplies to communities in the north of the state.

Debbie will hit Australia’s A$1.7 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy, with economists estimating it will slow growth to under 2 percent in the first quarter.

Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said on Saturday Australians should not be put off their holiday plans.

“I would just encourage every Aussie, if they’ve already made a booking in that part of the world, please follow through on it,” he said on television.

In the Bowen Basin, the world’s single largest source of coal used in steel-making, Glencore said its mines were not damaged by the storm but restarting production depended on railways reopening.

Three of rail operator Aurizon’s four railway lines in the region were closed and BHP, was assessing the extent of disruption to shipments.

Queensland’s top insurers, Suncorp Group Ltd and RACQ, said it was too early to put a dollar figure on the damage.

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