1 Jan 2011

Queensland flooding forces evacuations

6:39 am on 1 January 2011

Forced evacuations are underway in Rockhampton and isolated Emerald residents are facing a dire situation as Queensland's flood crisis escalates.

More than 200,000 people have already been affected by the worst flooding in the state's recorded history, which has hit an area in the centre and south of the state that is bigger than France and Germany combined.

State Premier Anna Bligh says 22 towns or cities in Queensland are inundated or isolated, and the disaster is still unfolding.

She described the flood crisis in Emerald as dire, with the army evacuating people and building makeshift emergency accommodation outside the town.

The Red Cross says up to 80% of Emerald is swamped.

The Nogoa River is at 16 metres with that peak expected to remain for at least 12 hours. More than 1200 residents have been evacuated so far with more expected.

Elsewhere, the now-deserted town of Theodore is set to be inundated again and all residents have been flown out of the township of Condamine.

The damage bill in Bundaberg, where the flooded Burnett River is now receding, is put at tens of millions of dollars.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrived in Bundaberg on Friday morning where about 300 homes and 120 businesses were inundated when the Burnett River peaked on Thursday at 7.9 metres.

Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said that if flood levels reached the forecast 9.4 metres, or beyond, on Tuesday, up to 40% of the city could be affected.

He couldn't rule out a flood to rival the 10.11 metres seen in 1918.

"This is a very serious situation," he said, adding a nine metre peak was expected by Sunday, which would inundate 200 homes and flood 4000 landholdings.

"Police are ordering people in affected areas to leave their homes."

Officers have the power to force people out if they refuse to go.