Sunday, May 24, 2009

Australia's east coast a disaster zone after severe floods

Emergency services estimated that 21,500 people were isolated by the flooding, which has caused widespread evacuations from the Gold Coast in Queensland to the northern rivers region of New South Wales (NSW).

One man, aged 70, died when his car was swamped by raging torrents that swept through the NSW town of Coffs Harbour, 340 miles north of Sydney, overnight.

The discovery of his body in the floodwaters brought the death toll from the storms, which were the worst to hit Queensland since 1974, to two. Earlier in the week a man was killed when freak winds flung a sheet of metal through an office window on the Gold Coast tourist strip.

While the extreme weather was easing there was still a risk of further flash-floods, the weather bureau warned.

"We could be talking weeks of inundation for some areas, if not longer," said an emergency service spokesman.

Flood warnings were in place for ten rivers in northern NSW. Residents of the coastal town of Kempsey were ordered to evacuate in the early hours of the morning before the Macleay River breached its levy, cutting off the town.

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