FLASH floods swept through an Australian city, killing at least eight people and leaving 11 others missing, an official said yesterday.
The raging torrent of muddy water tossed cars like toys, carried away furniture as it washed through stores, prompting scores of emergency calls yesterday as it swamped Toowoomba, a city of about 90,000 in Queensland state.
At least eight people were killed, including two children, and 11 more were reported missing. "Right now we have every possible available resource deployed into this region to search for those people that we know are missing," State Premier Anna Bligh told Australia's Nine Network. "This is going to be I think a very grim day."
He told reporters a 26-foot (eight-metre) wall of water was coursing through the low-lying communities from Toowoomba and eastward toward the state capital, Brisbane.
Officials urged residents of towns downstream from Toowoomba to immediately move to higher ground.
Mr Bligh said about 30 people were isolated in a school in the town of Grantham, and 46 people had already been rescued by helicopters from rooftops in a number of towns.
Darkness and fog prevented helicopters from carrying out overnight rescues but she said operations would continue at first light today.
Video taken in Toowoomba shows a man clutching a tree as the gushing water sweeps down a street, washing vehicles off the road.
The waters disappeared almost as fast as they arrived, leaving debris strewn throughout downtown Toowoomba and cars piled atop one another.
It was the latest drama for water-weary Queensland, which has been devastated by weeks of pounding rains and overflowing rivers. Eighteen people have died since late November and about 200,000 have been affected by the floods.
Roads and rail lines have been cut, Queensland's coal industry has virtually shut down, and cattle ranching and farming across a large part of the state are at a standstill. Some areas of Queensland have had more than 13 inches (343 millimetres) of rain in the past 24 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
There were also reports of bridges, warehouses and railway yards being destroyed. At least one building collapsed.