Image: Car wedged between trees
Tertius Pickard  /  AP
A car is wedged between trees after being swept away by torrential rains in Brisbane, Australia, on Thursday.
updated 11/20/2008 10:48:30 AM ET 2008-11-20T15:48:30

Two strong storms cut power to tens of thousands of homes and flooded streets along Australia's east coast Thursday, sweeping away one woman in her car amid the worst flooding in decades.

The first storm early Thursday dumped almost 8 inches of rain in a matter of hours on Brisbane, Queensland's capital, and surrounding towns. Strong winds lashed coastal areas in the southeast corner of the state.

Power was cut to about 800 homes and businesses, supplier Energex said.

But a second storm swept through the region on Thursday night, cutting power to 45,000 premises, it added.

Of the earlier storm, Brisbane resident Dave Gilbank said he "woke up, looked around ... and found that my bed was floating in about four feet of water."

Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said police had recovered the body of the woman who was swept away from a town west of Brisbane. Her death brought to two the number of people killed by violent weather in the east of Australia in the past five days.

Bligh invoked special powers granted during natural disasters to coordinate rescue efforts and provide assistance to those affected. Troops were deployed in some places, while neighbors and volunteers pitched in elsewhere to help clean up.

By late Thursday, most floodwaters had subsided, though more heavy rain was forecast for the coming days.

Nancy Huang said she saw water surge down her street in Brisbane early Thursday and inundate several houses before pouring into her apartment and rising to a height of about 6 1/2 feet.

"It was pretty frightening actually, we were trying to get out and we walked out of the house and it was raining and the water was really high," Huang told ABC. "We were lucky we weren't trapped."

Creeks and drains overflowed into streets and backyards, collapsing bridges, flooding roads and sweeping away everything from backyard toys to cars in the worst flooding in decades, officials said.

Bligh said emergency powers were in place, and troops would be deployed if needed to help clean up.

A pregnant woman was rescued while on her way to the hospital to give birth when her car became trapped between two overflowing streams, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Part of the same area of the state was declared a disaster zone earlier this week after a storm officials dubbed a mini-cyclone struck on Sunday, tearing roofs off houses, cutting electricity and causing other damage. Troops and other emergency crews were still working in the disaster area when the second storm stuck.

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