Australia floods: Fears worsen for Brisbane

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Media captionA beer garden is carried off by the swollen waters

Up to 20,000 homes are now at risk in Brisbane, as deadly floodwater hit Australia's third-largest city, officials in the Queensland state say.

Central Brisbane is a ghost town, with electricity cut and thousands of people fleeing the rising waters.

West of Brisbane, the city of Ipswich is being swamped by flood waters in a situation described as "total chaos".

The death toll from the flash floods in Queensland is 12 so far, with dozens of others reported missing.

On Wednesday, boats and pontoons floated down the roaring Brisbane river, along with massive amounts of debris.

Many roads around the city were shut, and resident had to use boats and kayaks to move around.

In low-lying suburbs only rooftops and the tops of trees remained visible, eyewitnesses said.

Australian broadcaster ABC reports that the Brisbane river is now forecast to peak at 5.2m (17ft) in the early hours of Thursday, down from a prediction of 5.5m.

About 50 people are still missing in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane.

As the rain clears, search and rescue teams are ready to deploy in what Queensland Premier Anna Bligh described as a "very gruesome" task.

"I think we will all be shocked by what they will find," Ms Bligh said.

'Serious event'

Power to central Brisbane has been cut in a move intended to prevent generators becoming a fire risk if flooded.

Shops put up signs that they would not open.

The Brisbane Courier Mail said 50 of the city's suburbs would be hit by flooding, and quoted Mayor Campbell Newman as saying some areas would be completely submerged.

He said Thursday would "be devastating for the residents and businesses affected".

The Brisbane river has burst its banks at Yeerongpilly and Indooroopilly, flooding streets. The paper quoted city council flood modelling as predicting that 40,000 properties would be affected.

Thousands of Brisbane residents have taken refuge in a number of specially-set evacuation centres.

Brisbane is facing a combined surge of water from the flooded Lockyer Valley and the Wivenhoe Dam, which is so full that it has been forced into controlled releases.

High tides - known as king tides - will exacerbate the problem on Thursday.

Sandbags have been given out to residents of Brisbane, a city with a population of two million.

There are reports of at least one bull shark being spotted in the flooded streets, says ABC.

'Inland tsunami'

In Ipswich, the Queensland Times said 3,000 homes were under water and 1,100 people have gone to evacuation centres.

The Bremer river, which runs through the city, is now expected to peak at 19.5m on Wednesday, revised downwards from 20.5m.

"It's the difference between bad news and devastation," Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said.

He said he expected flood levels to drop within the next 36 hours, allowing the clean-up to begin afterwards.

"If I find anybody looting in our city, they will be used as flood markers," he warned.

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Media captionEyewitness: "I'm on the roof of my house now with a mattress and a camping stove"

Train services have been suspended to the city.

Overall, Queensland's flooding has caused billions of dollars in damage and affected 200,000 people.

The worst affected area was the town of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, where residents described an "instant inland tsunami" of 8m ripping through the streets on Monday.

Toowoomba mayor Peter Taylor told BBC Radio 4: "We're working 24 hours a day, responding on an emergency number for people who need any assistance in terms of evacuation."

The forecast is for more rain to come for some areas, and there are reports of flooding in neighbouring New South Wales, with the Clarence River expected to peak at 7m.

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