Australia's flood worsens, forcing more evacuations

Updated: 2010-12-31 17:06
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BRISBANE - Australia's Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said on Friday that a flood crisis was emerging in Emerald in central Queensland with more evacuations being expected.

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Authorities expect a significant number of residents from the town to be homeless as the flood crisis escalates.

"Authorities think there will be a very large group of people who will be homeless in the next 24 hours," Bligh told reporters who went with her on a flood tour on Friday.

The Nogoa River in the flood-hit region of central Queensland is at 16 meters and rising and more than 1,200 residents have registered as evacuees, with more than 500 put up in evacuation centers, according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP) report.

The defense force has been called in to set up emergency accommodation outside Emerald, and two Black Hawk helicopters are flying locals out and making food drops to isolated communities around the town.

Bligh and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard planned to visit the town on Friday but the emergency evacuations and a shortage of aviation fuel forced a change of plan.

Instead, the premier's plane flew over the town.

Water is still rising in parts of Emerald as authorities try to determine how many homes and businesses have been flooded.

Earlier, Red Cross Queensland executive director Greg Goebel said floodwater had swamped up to 80 percent of the town.

The premier said it would be some time before Queensland could enter full recovery mode after the state's worst floods in recorded history.