24 Jan 2011

Sandbags taken from flood-threatened city

10:10 pm on 24 January 2011

Police are investigating claims sandbags have stolen from a flood-threatened city in the Australian state of Victoria.

More than 70 communities have been affected by widespread flooding and many more are expected to be swamped as the sea of water continues to move downstream, the ABC reports.

Several communities have been warned to brace for long periods of isolation and police are investigating claims some sandbags have stolen from Swan Hill in the state's northwest.

The Murray River at Swan Hill is expected to peak at 4.8 metres later this week.

Local authorities are confident the town's levee will contain the swollen river. The State Emergency Service says the flood threat is likely to continue for weeks.

Queensland toll rises

The number of people killed in the floods in south-east Queensland has risen by two, after remains discovered at the weekend were confirmed as human. Several people are still missing.

Remains were found at Murphy's Creek on Saturday and in a waterway near Lowood on Sunday, the ABC reports.

To date, 35 people have died in flood-related incidents across Queensland since 30 November last year.

Fears for Great Barrier Reef

Sections of the Great Barrier Reef could be damaged as floodwaters that have hit parts Queensland flow into the sea, scientists warn.

Thick sediment has been pouring into the ocean for more than a month, depositing chemicals and pesticides onto fragile marine ecosystems, the BBC reports.

Layers of brown silt have disrupted photosynthesis, a chemical process where plant cells within the coral use the energy of the sun to feed.

There are also concerns that agricultural pesticides have contaminated the sludge that has flowed into the ocean and can kill coral.