Image: German tourists rescued from crocodile-infested waters in Kakadu National Park
NT Police via EPA
German tourists attempt to drive through Australia's Magela Creek on Monday. The four tourists were rescued from the roof of their vehicle after it became stuck in crocodile-infested waters in Kakadu National Park.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/3/2011 1:24:51 PM ET 2011-01-03T18:24:51

A military flight rushed Monday to restock an Australian city before it was cut off by floodwaters that have turned a huge swath of the Outback into a lake, while police confirmed two more deaths in the crisis.

Drenching rain that started before Christmas has flooded an area the size of France and Germany combined in northeastern Queensland state. Rivers are overflowing and at least 22 towns and cities in the farming region are inundated.

In the coastal city of Rockhampton, waters from the still-swelling Fitzroy River closed the airport and cut the main highway to the state capital of Brisbane. Scores of families abandoned their homes for relief centers on high ground.

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By Monday night, floodwaters had inundated the last route into the city, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.

"Rockhampton is now completely stranded — a town of 75,000 people — no airport, rail or road," Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Residents emptied supermarket shelves of food and bottled water in recent days as they stocked up to reduce the need to get around in waist-deep waters.

Video: Devastating floods turn deadly in Australia (on this page)


Acting Defense Minister Warren Snowdon said a C-130 military cargo plane would fly to a town north of Rockhampton on Monday carrying food, medical supplies and other items that would then be trucked to the stricken city.

Authorities have warned the Fitzroy will continue rising until late Tuesday or early Wednesday local time.

Mayor Brad Carter has said about 40 percent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.

Video: Amid ‘biblical’ flood disaster, Australia faces more rain (on this page)


State authorities say about 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, Australia's worst in a decade, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday extended emergency relief to those affected, including low-interest loans to farmers to begin cleaning up and get their businesses running again.

"This is a major natural disaster, and recovery will take a significant amount of time," Gillard said. The damage could ultimately amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, she told reporters.

Three people have died in the flooding since Saturday, though police in Queensland state say seven other people have drowned separately involving swollen rivers and water accidents since tropical deluges began in late November.

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Chief Superintendent Alistair Dawson said the latest victim was a man who drowned Monday when the car he was traveling in was washed off a flooded causeway in the town of Aramac, in central Queensland.

Earlier Monday, police said they had recovered the body of a man who was last seen Saturday when his small boat was swamped by raging waters in a different part of the state.

The floods were triggered by cooling "La Nina" ocean currents that produced monsoon rains over the western Pacific and southeast Asia on the heels of months of downpours.

Queensland's interior, normally a vast outback of cattle properties, farms and mines, is now an inland sea, dotted with the roofs of flooded homes and islands crowded with stranded livestock.

The state's emergency coordinator, Police Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart, told reporters flood waters in Rockhampton stood 30 feet above normal early on Monday.

The rains that started the flooding have eased, and water levels have been dropping in some towns. But officials said about 1,000 people were living in evacuation centers across Queensland, and it may be a month before the floodwaters dry up completely.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: More than 200,000 displaced by Australian floods

  1. Transcript of: More than 200,000 displaced by Australian floods

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And in Australia , one woman whose hometown has been swamped by torrential floods over the past three days says being there is like living in the middle of the ocean. The area affected by these floods larger than the state of Texas . Especially hard hit the city of Rockhampton , about 400 miles north of Brisbane on Australia 's east coast. That is where reporter Talitha Cummins of Australia 's Channel 7 News is live for us tonight. Talitha , good evening.

    Ms. TALITHA CUMMINS (Channel 7 Australia): Good evening, Brian . We're in the city of Rockhampton , which is almost completely isolated by flood water. The Fitzroy River here behind me is due to peak tomorrow, forcing hundreds more people to evacuate their homes. It extends as far as the eye can see , Australia 's worst flooding in nearly a century. The military is delivering emergency supplies and temporary shelter to people in the flood zone. More than 200,000 have been affected in nearly a dozen cities and towns across Queensland after rainfall four times normal for this time of year. At least 10 people are dead. The city of Rockhampton is especially hard hit. Its main highway cut off. Its flood barrier no match for the swollen Fitzroy River .

    Ms. ANNA BLIGH (Queensland State Premier): We have massive community impacts. What's happening here in Rockhampton is -- well, I don't think we're going to see it again for another 50 or 100 years. That's the nature of this event.

    Ms. CUMMINS: Thousands of homes are threatened with residents struggling to evacuate. The airport is closed, rail links cut, and power disrupted. And it's a disaster for Queensland 's economy. Its life blood, coal and agriculture, brought to a standstill. But the pain is also personal, felt one home at a time.

    Ms. BERYL CALLAGHAN (Flood Victim): No mattresses. No -- all my electrical goods are gone, everything. Everything. It's so -- I don't know.

    Ms. CUMMINS: And the water is still rising. One hundred and fifty homes here are already under water, and that's before this river has even peaked. Authorities say that could quickly climb to 400, so it's going to be a nervous 24 hours ahead for these residents. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: What an awful scene there. Talitha Cummins , our thanks for that live report from down

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