Australia flooding could continue for week
Flood-ravaged communities in the eastern Australian state of Queensland could be under water for more than a week, state officials say.
Days of heavy rain left parts of central and southern Queensland state inundated, cutting off roads and forcing hundreds of people out of their homes.
"Water up to 16 metres deep has flooded towns and roads," Sydney-based freelance reporter Peter Hadfield said.
The rain eased Thursday, but river levels continued to rise in many locations and the Queensland disaster management agency said some areas are still bracing for more flooding.
Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said Thursday that areas that have already been flooded could remain under water for up to 10 days.
"It's an enormous disaster," she told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio. "The recovery ... is going to require literally billions of dollars from federal, state and local governments [and] insurance companies."
Bligh, who surveyed the damage in a helicopter, told reporters that the situation was grim.
"As we look across Queensland and we see the number of communities now that are affected, the scale of this disaster, I think it's fair to say Queensland is facing one of its toughest hours."
In Emerald, a community in central Queensland, 700 people have been moved to higher ground as the water levels in the local river rise, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
In the town of Theodore, the military evacuated all 300 residents by helicopter Wednesday.
Bruce Grady from Emergency Management Queensland said one option could be to send food to the state's north and then try to move it inland.
"We might have to look at some creative ways of doing that, we may have to look at moving product by sea, by plane," he said.
The Australian Red Cross said it has established eight evacuation centres across southern and central Queensland to help people forced out of their homes by the flooding.
Queensland launched a disaster relief fund for flood victims with $1 million in state money.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is scheduled to visit some flood-affected communities on Friday, pledged to match that amount with federal funds.
With files from The Associated Press and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation