Flooding at Bundaberg, Queensland. Photo: Channel 7
EMERGENCY crews scrambled on Monday to rescue up to 1500 people feared trapped in Bundaberg as Queensland’s flood crisis grew.
A week after Australia had some of the hottest temperatures on record, four Queenslanders were confirmed dead and another two were missing after ex-tropical cyclone Oswald brought strong winds and constant rain that isolated parts of central and south-east Queensland and northern parts of New South Wales.
About 250,000 customers were without power in Queensland.
The flooding has impacted many areas across the state.
Bundaberg, which faced record water levels, was the state’s hardest hit city.
Emergency teams backed by 14 helicopters, including two Black Hawks, worked into the evening to ensure everyone left North Bundaberg.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the group of rescue helicopters, which were on standby throughout the night, could carry more than 80 people at a time.
Mr Newman said the government estimated about 1500 people were trapped after staying despite a mandatory evacuation order issued on Monday morning to 5000 people in the area.
Bundaberg was now in ‘‘uncharted territory’’, he said.
By Monday afternoon, more than 2000 properties had been affected by floodwaters moving at more than 70km/h.
Authorities said the Burnett River was at 9.2 metres and rising fast towards its expected peak of 9.5 metres on Tuesday. That would be well beyond the levels recorded in 2010-11 and in 1942, when the record was set.
Residents of the Queensland town of Warwick were anxiously watching the rising Condamine River on Monday night, with 30 homes flooded and more expected to go under.
A major flood crisis was developing in the state’s Lockyer Valley, where 19 lives were lost in the 2011 floods. Gympie and Maryborough were also under water.
In Brisbane, a disaster declaration was made late on Monday ahead of the flood’s expected peak at noon on Tuesday.
A 27-year-old wheelchair-bound man was found dead near Gympie and on Sunday night a motorcyclist in Greenbank, south of Brisbane, was washed away as passers-by tried to rescue him.
His body was pulled from the Oxley creek, south of Brisbane. The body of an 81-year-old man was earlier pulled from the water near Bundaberg.
A three-year-old boy who was in a critical condition in hospital after a tree that ripped loose from sodden ground fell on him and his mother on Brisbane’s northside.
A three-year-old boy who sustained head injuries after being struck by a tree that ripped loose from sodden ground, subsequently died in hospital.
His 30-year-old mother was treated for head injuries.
Mr Newman tried to reassure Queenslanders that the overall flooding would not be as severe as in 2011, but conceded it was worse in some parts of the state.
‘‘Once again, sadly Queensland is facing a major disaster crisis,’’ the he said in Brisbane.
‘‘[But] this state and its people will rise to the challenge. Together we will get through this.’’
Hundreds of people were sheltering in an Ipswich evacuation centre as the swollen Bremer River continued to rise after breaking its banks.
‘‘It’s a sea of emotion here,’’ Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale, who spoke with anxious residents bunkered down in evacuation centres, said.
‘‘To have the same people go through this again after just rebuilding their homes is terrible. What they’re feeling, what the kids are feeling ... it’s all bad.
‘‘It was supposed to be a one-in-100-year flood, not a one-in-two-year flood.’’
The heavy rains were expected to track south to Sydney before midnight, with high rainfall until early on Tuesday.
The weather bureau issued a severe weather warning for parts of NSW, with heavy rainfall and winds of up to 140km/h expected.
Up to 300 millimetres of rain could fall in areas of Sydney over 24 hours from Monday morning, the bureau said.
SES volunteers in Queensland and NSW responded to thousands of calls as the heavy rain spread.
NSW communities at risk included Byron Bay, Ballina, Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
With BRISBANE TIMES, AAP