Asia-Pacific

Australia floods: Residents wake up surrounded by water

A woman swept from the road in her car has become the first victim of widespread flooding in Queensland.

More than 20 towns have been cut off or flooded across an area larger than France and Germany combined, with more than 200,000 people affected.

The Australian authorities are warning that flooding could last for a month.

Sunday 2 January

Alex Finlayson, Emerald

Today has been the hardest day for me since the actual flooding.

During the night my daughter Charli became very ill with a viral infection and had a high fever, over 38°c. We had no choice but to call an ambulance out this morning.

Image caption Neighbours help Alex with the clean-up

The main hospital has been flooded. It's now been relocated to a Red Cross camp set up in a local college.

Fortunately, as soon as the medical staff gave Charli some water and a saline drip to hydrate her, she was back to her normal self dancing to a Wiggles video on my phone and high-fiving the nurses.

The floodwaters have receded and people are finally being allowed back into homes and businesses.

I've been able to examine our property for the first time since the flooding. I'm in a state of disbelief. It nearly all got too much. We've lost many personal possessions.

There's an inch of slick mud through the house, the walls are damaged and the garden fence has been washed away.

I've begun the slow process of checking for sewage contamination, structural stability and electrical safety. It's going to be a long recovery process.

Few expect life to return to normal for many months yet.

This disaster has affected people's resilience in different ways. But what has been really amazing is the fact that there are forty people in my house, all strangers, helping us with the clean-up and house repairs.

Everyone has banded together. Neighbours, local miners and even some of my students and their parents are working to help get local residents back into their homes.

Paul Mergard, Bundaberg

I haven't been directly affected by the floods, but my aunt's shop has been flooded and I've been helping her to clean it out. Thankfully the waters here have receded for now.

We are trying to work out the damage. The trouble is that we are not able to make a claim on the insurance because of where the shop is. So businesses like my aunt's will have to start again from scratch.

There is a travel agency next door that has the same issues. My mum used to work there and the owners are friends of ours. They will have to pay out for everything like new computers and carpets, etc.

I grew up in the area and I am astounded by the damage the floods have made. River levels haven't been this high here since 1942. They reached their peak on Wednesday, and now they are slowly getting back to normal.

People have rallied in Australia since the catastrophe. I was driving around and I saw people helping neighbours and friends everywhere I went. Something like this really brings the community together.

We've been relatively lucky - conditions here haven't been as bad as in other towns such as Rockhampton, about 300kms north from here, you can't get around there and the airport is expected to be closed for days.

It is the start of the wet season which presents a new challenge - it wouldn't take much for Bundaberg to be deluged again in the coming weeks.

Petros Khalesirad, Rockhampton

Image caption A 'Welcome to Rockhampton' road sign stands in the middle of the flood waters

There are some residents who went to bed with no water around them, and then woken up surrounded by flood waters.

Snakes have been swimming at people's feet as they make their way through the waters. I know one guy who killed four snakes this morning, one of which was a taipan - the more it bites the more it injects venom that could easily kill.

In Rockhampton, it has been mainly properties that have been affected, but smaller communities like Theodore and Emerald have suffered the most.

The authorities have identified that this flood is unique as waters are coming from unexpected areas. The waters are still relatively high and although they are steady, they have not declined.

There are thunderstorms around and it is humid. Even one inch of rain could be catastrophic as the storm waters will have no where to go.

Communities around the region are showing resilience and groups of people are going round houses to offer help.

Looting has been a big problem. There are so many people around you don't know who the legitimate owners of properties are.

There has been an over-reaction to the buying of goods. Lots of people have been stocking up on fuel. I also heard about one woman who brought 20 loaves of bread from a supermarket.

Ferry services are becoming available to transport people from neighbouring Gracemere to Rockhampton.

People here will be inconvenienced for a few weeks, but in other parts of Queensland, they will be affected for years to come.

Your stories: Saturday 1 January

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