Queensland facing rebuild of 'post-war' proportions
Australia's third largest city is facing a clean-up of "post-war" proportions as thousands of residents returned to assess the damage caused to their homes by the biggest flood to hit Brisbane in decades.
The death toll from the floods sweeping the state's south-east rose to 15 during the day after a 25-year-old man was sucked down a storm drain to his death in the city when he went to check on his father's flooded home.
The Brisbane River peaked at 14ft overnight but the drama continued during the day with several dramatic rescues carried out on the fast-flowing water.
A man in a dinghy rescued two people from a boat that was careening down the river without power, and another man was plucked out of the torrent after he fell in from one of the riverbanks.
The rescues came hours after a tugboat helped avert disaster by nudging a large piece of floating concrete away from the supports of a major city bridge.
An estimated 50 suburbs across Brisbane have been swamped with dirty, muddy water and 11,900 homes have been hit by serious flood damage.
Another 14,000 properties and 6,000 businesses are partially flooded.
In some of the worst hit areas, residents who had fled to high ground with as many possessions as they could fit into their cars returned to survey the damage.
On a street in Milton, in the city's inner-west, one woman wept as she toured her waterlogged home.
Jan Dalton had found her diary, birthday cards from her late father and books that she planned to hand on to her children floating in the waters outside her house.
"The water's been up to chest height inside," she said.
"Everything's wet and muddy, the feeling is totally surreal, I feel like I am on a movie set but this is my life."
Elsewhere, residents took boats to check on their low-lying properties and carry in food and fuel to neighbours who had been isolated by the floods. Many had seen the flood water reach the roofs of their homes over the past 24 hours and most spoke of the shock of seeing their urban street disappear under several feet of water.
In some parts of the city police patrolled the waterways in search of looters, after three men were arrested for trying to steal boats.
There was also a sighting of a bull shark in the brackish floodwater that filled one suburb.
Outside Brisbane, the grim task of recovering bodies from towns almost obliterated by the torrent of water that rushed down the Lockyer Valley from Toowoomba began in earnest.
Warning that the death toll from the floods would rise as the search continued in the devastated towns of Grantham and Murphy's Creek, Anna Bligh, the premier, broke down in tears.
"As we weep for what we have lost, as we grieve for family and friends, I want us to remember who we are.
"We are Queenslanders, the people they breed tough north of the border," she said.
More than 60 people remain missing and grave fears are held for at least 11.
As well as the official police and Red Cross tallies of the missing, a Facebook page has been set up to help put relatives back in touch with each other after the flooding affected mobile phone signals and power lines.
Ms Bligh also warned that some of the homes damaged by the flood will no longer be habitable.
"We are going to see damage and destruction in the CBD, parks and schools and the homes of people we know and love.
"We now face a reconstruction task of post-war proportions."
While the floods did not reach the peak of the last major inundation in 1974, Ms Bligh said the crisis presented the city with an unprecedented challenge because of the number of people now living in flood-ravaged suburbs.
She said that floods now gripped two-thirds of the state and had become Queensland's worst natural disaster in history.
As the clean-up began in Brisbane, amazing stories of survival have started to emerge.
Clive Palmer, one of Australia's richest men, used his company helicopter to rescue scores of people from the roofs of flooded buildings in Kilroy, north-east of Brisbane.
Mr Palmer deployed the helicopter after a group of staff members at his horse stud waited 12 hours for the emergency services to reach them at a flooded farmhouse.
On its way back the pilot spotted 16 people, including children, huddled on the roof of an inundated school. By the end of the day, the helicopter had airlifted 60 people to safety.