Australia: Hundreds rescued after record flooding | News | DW | 04.02.2019

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Australia: Hundreds rescued after record flooding

"Once-in-a-century" flooding in Australia's tropical northeast has forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Forecasters have also warned that more rain and thunderstorms are on the way.

Emergency services in the northeastern state of Queensland helped more than 1,100 people evacuate their homes overnight after authorities opened the floodgates of an overflowing dam.

Torrential rains over the past week have inundated houses, caused mass power outages, forced school and airport closures, and even brought crocodiles out onto the street.

The heaviest rainfall has been recorded around the coastal city of Townsville, where evacuation efforts were continuing on Monday.

"Once in a century event happening here. I have never seen the likes of this before," Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told public broadcaster the ABC.

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Emergency services rescue residents of Townsville from floodwaters

Local emergency workers ferry Townsville residents out of flood-affected parts of the city

Rescue workers and military personnel carried out 18 swift water rescues overnight.

"Small boats worked through the night to evacuate members of the community," said local commander Brigadier Scott Winter.

Record rains

Townsville has just experienced its wettest week on record, with a total of 1.16 meters (3.8 feet) of rainfall over the past seven days.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the downpour would continue on Monday, and that "destructive winds with intense thunderstorms may develop, with wind gusts above 125 kilometers per hour (77 miles per hour)."

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Emergency workers rescue a man from his flooded home

Emergency workers in boats help a man leave his flooded home

Floodgates open

Authorities were forced to open the spillway gates of Townsville's swollen Ross River Dam late Sunday, causing flash flooding downstream and leaving low-lying parts of the city underwater.

As of Monday morning, the Ross River Dam was still at 229 percent capacity.

Townsville disaster coordinator Steve Munro told the ABC that up to 20,000 homes were at risk of flooding.

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BOM meteorologist Dean Narramore said more heavy rain was forecast before conditions ease.

"Some locations [are] approaching the yearly [rainfall] average in just a week," he said. "Over the next three days the monsoon trough and low isn't expected to move anywhere. We're expecting to see heavy falls continue."

nm/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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