Thousands in shelters as flooding peaks in eastern Australia
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 8:18AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:00PM EST
BRISBANE, Australia -- Military personnel headed to flood-ravaged northeast Australia on Wednesday to help clean up the sludgy aftermath of floods that damaged thousands of homes and businesses and left some communities short of power, food and water.
Floodwaters were receding in most areas, bringing relief to a region that was battered by worse floods just two years ago. But there were concerns about food and water shortages in some communities, thousands were without power and police were desperately hunting for two men who vanished while travelling through floodwaters earlier this week. Four flood-related deaths were confirmed previously.
Around 120 soldiers were en route to the hardest-hit city of Bundaberg in Queensland, 385 kilometres north of Brisbane. The flooding, caused by the remnants of a tropical cyclone, forced around 7,500 Bundaberg residents from their homes, inundated 2,000 houses and 200 businesses with murky water and prompted helicopter evacuations of 1,000 people.
As the cleanup began Wednesday, some residents complained about dwindling food supplies.
"People were almost coming to blows this morning at the local shop fighting over bread rolls," said Chris Pasky of Moore Park, just outside Bundaberg. "We've got a baby in the house we can't feed. We've just been forgotten."
In Brisbane, residents were warned to conserve water after muddy floodwaters put pressure on the city's water treatment plants. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that stocks of bottled water were ready to be distributed to residents if the reservoirs run dry.
In other areas, officials scrambled to deliver supplies to residents still cut off by the slowly-receding waters.
"We're discovering people who are isolated, without power, without water, and we're going to be getting some long-life milk and bread supplies in through four-wheel drive later today," said Pam Parker, mayor of Logan City, south of Brisbane.
In a waterlogged area of Queensland, police were searching for two men, aged 25 and 34, who were travelling separately to work on Sunday near Gatton, about 90 kilometres west of Brisbane, but never arrived. The 25-year-old's car was found submerged in a creek on Tuesday, and police on Wednesday found a car matching the description of the 34-year-old's vehicle. They were working to identify it Wednesday afternoon.
Queensland residents suffered through the worst flooding Australia had seen in decades in late 2010 and early 2011, when floodwaters from heavy rain killed 35 people, damaged or destroyed 30,000 homes and businesses and left Brisbane under water for days.
Australia has been suffering through a summer of weather extremes, with blistering temperatures and dry conditions igniting hundreds of wildfires across the southern half of the country.