Australian floods: Queensland city braces for waters to peak
Tens of thousands of residents of a major Australian town are facing complete isolation as flood waters are predicted to reach a peak in the next 24 hours.
The city of Rockhampton, which has a population of 77,000 people, could be completely cut off from the outside world when the Fitzroy River reaches 31 feet on Wednesday.
The brown floodwaters - which have affected a region the size of France and Germany combined across Queensland - have already rolled into several inner city streets and low-lying outer suburbs have been turned into inland lakes.
Officials have been carrying out forced evacuations and have issued warnings about marauding snakes and crocodiles as one of Australia's worst floods, which has already hit dozens of towns, threatened to sever Rockhampton's last road link.
Residents sandbagged homes and shops in the regional centre, where 200 houses are already flooded and 1,200 are surrounded by water. Electricity has been cut to many waterlogged areas and some 500 homes have been evacuated so far. The Fitzroy River bisecting the town has swollen to 30 feet but is still climbing.
Rockhampton, 370 miles north of Brisbane and a hub for the farming and coal-mining region, has become the focus for what officials call "biblical" floods affecting 200,000 people in an area the size of France and Germany.
Weeks of heavy rains followed by tropical cyclone Tasha have swollen rivers to record levels in some cases, deluging mines and farms, washing away bridges and forcing military evacuations of entire towns by helicopter.
Rising brown waters have closed the airport and railway in Rockhampton and just one road out of town, to the north, is passable. Residents have been travelling around the town in boats as the army trucked in tonnes of food, petrol and medical supplies. Another pressing concern was that flood waters could inundate the town's sewerage plant, sending sewage into the floodwater.
Emergency officials have also voiced fears the waters could remain at high levels for two weeks, bringing sandflies and disease-carrying mosquitoes, and warned of the threat of poisonous snakes and crocodiles.
"They're in their mating season and they've been flushed out of their environment... snakes are very, very cranky right now," a state emergency services officer said.
"(And) the problem with crocodiles now is it's very, very hard to pick (them) with the amount of debris,". One SES volunteer said he had seen "two cops hightailing it out of the water with a croc going past".
Ten people have died trying to negotiate fast-running waters in vehicles, swimming or on foot over the past month.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, expressed condolences for the loss of life in floods and said Washington was prepared to provide assistance to its close ally.
While other parts of the state are already cleaning up after the worst of the flooding passed, officials have warned that some towns are yet to be hit by the rising waters and relief and recovery operations could last for weeks.