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Outcry at 'looting' as army moves in

Military planes were flying food and other supplies toward a major city being slowly swamped in Australia's flood emergency today, and police were increasing patrols in evacuated regions amid reports of looting.

Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeastern coast, filling rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.

There were reports of looting in some towns.

A 41-year-old woman was swept to her death in front of her family on Saturday in Burketown, in hardest-hit Queensland state.

She was the only confirmed victim so far of the flood crisis, which began building shortly before Christmas after days of drenching tropical rain.


Searches were under way for two men, in separate locations in Queensland, who were missing after being last seen in the floodwaters.

In Rockhampton, a coastal city of about 75,000 people, waters from the still-swelling Fitzroy River closed the airport and cut the main highway leading to the state capital of Brisbane.

Scores of families abandoned their homes for relief centres set up on high ground.

Rockhampton residents have emptied supermarket shelves of food and bottled water in recent days as they stock up to reduce the need to get around once waist-deep waters.

Police have increased their patrols of flooded towns but could not confirm any reports of looting. Some residents, however, said cars and homes had been broken into and items stolen.