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Brisbane goes under water, death toll touches 34

January 13, 2011 17:24 IST
Australia's third largest metropolis, Brisbane, turned into a city under siege as swelling muddy waters submerged major parts of the town, swallowed roads and the entire river front in the worst ever flooding which hit 30,000 properties.

Only roof tops were visible in large parts of the city as the flood waters from the Brisbane river breaching their embankments crested, sinking all two-storeyed houses and keeping an estimated two million population locked indoors.

As the roaring river waters peaked one metre below predictions, the devastation was likened by a top official to an "aftermath of war". Latest reports said the first death in the reeling city had been caused when a 24-year-old man was drowned when he went to check his home in the disaster zone. With his death, the toll in the current flooding rose to 14 and cumulatively the figure of the dead, officials said, was 34 in weeks of heavy rains and flash floods, which have hit the Queensland state since November.

Mercifully for the authorities, the floodwaters that had reached peak levels of 4.46 metres around 1915 GMT, below levels that devastated the city in 1974, have started receding.
Residents heaved a sigh of relief as they woke up to the news that they had dodged the worst-case scenario. However, 15,000 houses were completely submerged, some upto their roof, and more than 14,000 were partly under water.

Meanwhile, the Indian high commission in Canberra said on Thursday that Indians were not among the casualties in Queensland province. The rising waters also sunk more than 8,000 commercial establishments and wiped off the city map, Brisbane's famous waterfront.

The death of the young man prompted authorities to issue fresh warnings to others not to enter flood zones. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said 74 people were still missing in the floods.

"Please stay safe out there, it's a dangerous place right now. We've already had one death, let's not see any more as a result of Brisbane's flooding. Queensland is reeling this morning from the worst natural disaster in our history and possibly in the history of our nation," she said stating that the state was now facing a reconstruction task of post war proportions.

"As we look across our state we've seen three-quarters of our state experiencing the devastation of raging floodwaters and we now face a reconstruction task of post-war proportions. That is how we are seeing it and we have steely determination to overcome what we have seen in the last three weeks," she added.

Meanwhile, the police still hold grave fears for 12 people, 11 of them from just two families, who are still missing in Murphys Creek in the worst hit Australian province of Queensland. A further 74 people are missing across the Lockyer Valley with fears an old railway bridge in Grantham may have become a mass underwater grave.

Bligh said there were now 70 towns and cities across Queensland affected by flooding, either because they have been inundated themselves or they have been cut off from major supply lines and isolated for weeks.

Reconnecting utilities was now a major issue across the southeast, including 1,18,000 properties without electricity and  water supplies critical or exhausted in some Lockyer Valley towns in the region. More than 115,000 Brisbane and Ipswich homes are without electricity supply and in many cases won't be reconnected for several days.

Image: Roofs of houses are visible above flood waters west of Brisbane on Thursday | Photograph: Tim Wimborn/Reuters

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