Brisbane was last night mobilising for a reconstruction effort compared to the European post-war rebuilding operation after the city's devastating floods.
The death toll from five days of flooding across south-east Queensland rose to 15 after the deluge swept through the city, while fresh flood threats loom with a cyclone forecast off the coast.
Anna Bligh, the state's premier, said Australia's third-largest city faced a long and slow recovery from the worst natural disaster in its history.
Describing the city as a war zone, she warned that many homes would no longer be habitable and that it could take "months and months and months" before life returned to normal.
Ms Bligh has called for volunteers to form a citizens' army to tackle the debris and clean up the silt left behind when the waters subside.
"People are waking up to unbearable agony across our city," she said.
"We've seen scenes of unbelievable devastation and destruction: entire suburbs where only rooftops can be glimpsed, whole industrial parks and railway stations under water, bridges, roads, all closed."
The army was sending all-terrain vehicles laden with food and essentials into suburbs in the city's west that had been cut off by the floods, which peaked at 17ft yesterday morning. Extra police have also been drafted in to patrol flooded suburbs and prevent looting.
Officials last night warned of the risk of further severe flooding in the coming weeks, with two months of the wet season still ahead.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecast that a storm in the Coral Sea off Queensland's north coast would become a cyclone in 24 to 48 hours, but while it would bring fresh rains to Queensland, it was expected to move away from the coast.
Across Brisbane, 11,700 homes and 6,000 businesses in 50 suburbs were inundated, and a further 14,000 properties damaged. The city's main sports stadium was under several feet of water, the XXXX beer brewery was flooded and landmarks on the river's edge had been entirely washed away.
Residents who had left their homes returned yesterday to survey the damage.
In the suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Marie Gough found the waters had reached the gutters. "It was awful, it went further up than I thought it would but it is better to have seen it, now I know it's going to be six months before I can go home," she said.
Outside Brisbane, the grim task of recovering bodies from towns almost obliterated by the torrent began in earnest.
Police warned the death toll would rise as the search intensified in the devastated towns of Grantham and Murphy's Creek, where many bodies are feared to be buried in thick mud left behind by the "inland tsunami".
More than 60 people are still reported missing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)