Rockhampton: Homes in Australian city flooded as river peaks

image copyrightABC
image captionStreets in Rockhampton have been inundated

More than 200 houses in the Australian city of Rockhampton have been flooded after a river reached its flood peak, authorities say.

The Fitzroy River rose to 8.75m (29ft) in the central Queensland city on Thursday.

It comes nine days after Cyclone Debbie made landfall in northern Queensland, causing floods along a 1,200km (745 miles) stretch of coast.

Authorities said Rockhampton would face a "major flood" for at least a day.

"This body of water is incredible," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

image copyrightQFES
image captionFloods have forced the closure of Rockhampton Airport
image copyrightABC
image captionThe Fitzroy River had been rising for days

At least 217 homes had been flooded and the river was expected to remain at its current level for at least a day, said local councillor Tony Williams.

Despite temporary levees being installed, floodwaters hit many buildings and forced roads and an airport to close.

Mr Williams, chair of the local disaster management committee, said it could take businesses up to two years to recover.

"I think it will be the nail in the coffin for a lot of businesses," he told Seven News.

Cyclone Debbie pounded Australia's east coast as a category four system before causing torrential rain as a tropical storm.

The Insurance Council of Australia has estimated the damage bill could reach A$1bn ($770m).

Why has the flood peak taken so long?

Rockhampton sits near the mouth of the Fitzroy River, which draws water from a catchment twice the size of Tasmania.

The peak came so long after Cyclone Debbie because the catchment is upstream, said civil engineer Dr David Callaghan from the University of Queensland.

"The reason for this delay is that it is a large catchment," he told the BBC.

"It takes time for water in a large area of that total catchment to all arrive at once to any particular location along the river."

media captionOfficials have warned against playing in floodwaters

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