Australia

Thousands flee worsening flood disaster

Flood waters continue to rise
Flood waters continue to rise Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Tens of thousands of residents in the town of Rockhampton have left their homes and sandbagged properties as floods in Australia's northern state of Queensland continue to spread. Rockhampton, 500 kilometres from Brisbane, is now the focus for what officials are calling the 'biblical' floods affecting 200,000 people across the state. 

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Residents of Rockhampton are braced for complete isolation as waters, which have flooded an area bigger than France and Germany, have closed the town's airport and railway and is now lapping at the last remaining road link. Ten people have died so far trying to negotiate fast-running waters in vehicles, swimming or on foot.

The floods have now unleashed a plague of snakes including highly venomous taipans, brown snakes and red-bellied blacks. Residents say the snakes are climbing trees and hiding in houses as they search for dry refuge. Emergency officials warn the snakes are in their mating season and are very agressive.

Rumours of crocodile sightings are also sweeping the town. Considered the gateway to Australia's crocodile country, the man-eating reptiles are reported to have devoured a dog and stalked one police patrol. Officials say the crocodiles have been flushed from the rivers and could easily be mistaken for floating debris.

Thousands of poisonous cane toads have also been spotted while authorities say Rockhampton will be hit be sandflies and disease-carrying mosquitoes breeding in standing water.

Meanwhile, the worst is yet to hit the southern Queensland town of St George, which has begun evacuating residents and strengthening levees to keep out waters expected to peak on Sunday or Monday.

The disaster is expected to cost the government several billion of US dollars.

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