Floods force evacuations in eastern Australia

Torrential rains following in the wake of tropical cyclone Tasha, which last week crossed into the northeastern state of Queensland before quickly fading, have swollen rivers and flooded scores of farms and homes in the state.

Some towns saw their worst floods in 50 years, including Theodore some 400 km northwest of Brisbane, which has been cut off for two days and whose 350 residents were being evacuated by helicopter.

Local Banana Shire Council Mayor Maureen Clancy said the town was “just a sea of water”.

Clancy told Australian news agency AAP that floodwaters had even reached its evacuation centre.

“Following a request from Queensland, the government is providing two Blackhawk helicopters to assist in the evacuation of Theodore,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement. “Australian Defence Force personnel are on stand-by to offer further support if required.”

By early afternoon, the Dawson River at Theodore was at 14.59 metre and rising—way beyond the town’s 1956 record of 14.07 metre—and most of the town under water.
As many as 1,000 people have been forced from their homes by the waters, which has affected large parts of central and southern Queensland, with more than 100 homes and businesses inundated. Officials said while the rain was abating in some places, a vast amount of water upstream was yet to flow through the towns as it made its way to the sea.

The Queensland government has declared several areas, including Theodore, Chinchilla and Dalby, disaster zones — a move that gives police the power to force people from their homes if necessary.

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