Asia-Pacific

Australia floods: Brisbane begins massive clean-up

Residents remove mud from houses in the Brisbane suburb of Westend on 14 Jan 2010
Image caption Layers of thick mud have filled houses and businesses in Brisbane

People in Brisbane have begun to clean up swathes of sludge and debris as floodwaters begin to recede from Australia's third largest city.

At least 30,000 properties in the Queensland city have been swamped and many areas remain without power.

Residents have been dragging sodden possessions from water-logged homes.

Meteorologists have warned that there could be more heavy rain to come in the flood-hit state, in which at least 16 people have lost their lives this week.

Floods have surged through southern Queensland since December, causing widespread devastation.

Many of those who perished were swept away when flash floods hit Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley area, west of Brisbane, on Monday.

One body was found 80km (50 miles) from where the person disappeared, and police say some of the missing may never be found, despite intensive searches.

"There are over 200km of waterways that are [being searched] apart from that land area," said Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.

"But regrettably we could not exclude completely the possibility that someone may never be found."

'Heartache'

In Brisbane, water levels have fallen two metres from their peak of 4.46m (14.6ft) just before 0530 local time on Thursday (1930 GMT Wednesday).

Residents have been digging ruined possessions out of stinking sludge and throwing out carpets and furniture thickly coated in mud.

Extra police officers have been deployed to the city, where 10 people have been held for looting in the past 24 hours.

One looter had to be resuscitated after leaping from a boat in an attempt to flee police.

Queensland State Premier Anna Bligh called for a spirit of co-operation in communities.

"There is a lot of heartache and grief as people start to see for the first time what has happened to their homes and their streets," she said.

"In some cases we have street after street after street where every home has been inundated to the roof level, affecting thousands of people.

"I encourage people please to make an effort to help your friends, help your families."

Structural fears

Officials have said the clean-up could take months.

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Media caption"Miraculous" escape as floods cause yacht to sink

Rubbish collectors have reappeared on the city's streets, while Mayor Campbell Newman called for individuals or businesses with bulldozers and other equipment to help clear roads.

"The big priority this morning and through the day is to try and get the roads open. Clean the debris and the silt off the roads and get them open," he said.

Officials have also warned that the reopening of a main road connecting central Brisbane with western suburbs would be delayed because of structural concerns.

Electricity has been restored to the majority of areas, but more than 43,000 homes across flood-hit parts of the state still have no power.

"Certainly heading up to the river towards Milton we've seen some houses that are still under water, and they may not be connected to the grid for days if not weeks, until they're able to be tested and deemed safe," Danny Donald, a spokesman for power company Energex, told ABC News.

Further south, the threat of flooding in the town of Goondiwindi appeared to be reduced, as the Macintyre River held steady at 10.64m, below the top of the town's 11m levee.

In the state of Victoria, residents in western and central areas are also braced for flooding.

Twelve towns have been evacuated ahead of expected flood surges.

On Friday, the national weather bureau warned that above-average cyclone activity was expected to last until March. A storm in the Coral Sea is being monitored, and threatens to bring more rain, it said.

The weeks of rain have been blamed on a La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific.

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