Twenty-two Queensland towns and cities are now inundated by water or isolated as the state’s flooding disaster continues, and authorities say the crisis has claimed eight lives in the past month.
Emergency Management Queensland says 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, which now cover an area bigger than New South Wales.
Earlier, the floodwaters claimed the life of a woman in Queensland’s Gulf Country.
Police say the 41-year-old woman was in one of two cars that were swept off a causeway into the flooded Leichhardt River at Floraville, near Burketown, on Saturday night.
Her body was found on Sunday morning, two kilometres downstream.
Meanwhile, police have called off a search for a man who was seen diving into floodwaters in Rockhampton.
Police are also searching for a fisherman who was washed overboard by a rogue wave in the Boyne River near Gladstone on Saturday afternoon.
Brett Pointing from Queensland Police says the scale of the floods is so enormous that it could have been worse.
“Every death that’s happened during this event, whether it’s the tragedy of this morning (Sunday) or when it was during the rain [when] people were washed over causeways, they were all terrible tragedies, but we’re just grateful there hasn’t been more,” he said.
Authorities have issued a warning to people to stay away from swollen rivers, as hundreds of homes continue to be evacuated across the state.
Extra SES volunteers are being flown into flooded regions to relieve exhausted emergency crews.
Alistair Dawson from Queensland Police says flood levels are dropping slowly in Emerald, but the Fitzroy River is still rising in Rockhampton.
“Across this vast area there are different stages of disaster from recovery through to response,” he said.
Rockhampton is only accessible from the north and water is creeping closer to more than 1,000 homes.
As the Fitzroy River continues to rise, power has also been cut to hundreds of properties.
Around 40 people have moved to the emergency evacuation centre but many more are staying with friends or family.
Water is flowing through some low-set homes in the Depot Hill area and higher dwellings have water coursing underneath.
Up to 400 homes could go under by the middle of the week.
The Fitzroy River is currently at 8.8 metres and authorities say it might fall short of the predicted 9.4 metres peak expected on Wednesday.
The airport is closed as there is now water over the runway; the Bruce Highway is closed to the south and the Capricorn Highway is shut to the west.
Some service stations have run out of fuel and residents are stocking up on supplies.
But Mayor Brad Carter says local authorities are making sure food supplies are not running low.
“We’ve had our disaster co-ordination centre talking to the supermarkets today to try and estimate what our supply is like for the next short while,” he said.
“Particularly given the fact that our airport is now out of operation and the highway going south to Brisbane where all our supplies come from has been cut since seven o’clock last night.”
Resident Reg Wilson says he does not want to leave his home but police have told him he has no choice.
“A man came along in a car with a gun on his hip who said ‘you be out of here by five o’clock or else’ and when a man with a gun talks to you like that, you get out,” he said.
In Emerald, 1,000 homes have been flooded and hundreds of residents are staying in evacuation centres.
The council hopes the main route into the town, the Vince Lester Bridge, will reopen tomorrow and the Nogoa River that swamped the town has dropped below 15 metres.
Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, who has seen the devastation in Emerald first-hand today, says residents have started sweeping water and mud out of their houses.
“The mayor and the council and the community have shown you why Queenslanders, why people from Emerald, are so tough,” he said.
“The thing that scares me and worries me is all the water that I see here is water that’s headed downstream to Rockhampton.”
Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire says it could take two years for the district to recover from flood damage and the region still has not recovered from the last floods.
“I’ve seen photos of some of our roads and we haven’t fixed some of them from the February floods last year,” he said.
“We are just so far behind … the next council election is in March 2012 and it might not be sorted out by then. I mean it’s unbelievable to think [this] could go on for another 12 months to two years.”
Meanwhile, floodwaters are slowly receding in Theodore, but there are fears 34 homes in low-lying parts of Moura could be affected by water in the next day.
The Dawson River reached a record high of 14.7 metres yesterday and has only dropped slightly.
Ron Bock, who was evacuated to Moura with 300 other residents, says there is still water across the main street.
“I had a fly around over there this morning … and the water is slowly dropping away, although there was still water in the main street at that time,” he said.
“All we really want to do is get back to our homes and get things cleaned up and do what we can do.”
The Darling Downs town of Condamine is still abandoned, after more than 50 properties were inundated.
Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown says it could be late next week before people can go home.
“It won’t be at least until Thursday before residents will be able to get back in,” he said.
“That co-ordination is starting now and an enormous team has been put together to address this.
“I did address the residents this morning. Certainly the emotions are still very raw and we understand their feelings. We will try to get them back on board as quick as we can.”
The southern inland town of Surat are preparing for record flooding tomorrow.
And in nearby St George, floodwaters are expected peak at more than 13 metres next weekend.
‘Haven’t got a knife and fork’
Residents in Bundaberg have begun returning to their homes to assess the damage from the city’s floods.
More than 400 homes and businesses were inundated when the Burnett River peaked at 7.9 metres on Thursday.
The river has now fallen, revealing widespread damage to the city.
Resident Lorraine says her house was completely submerged.
“I’ve lost everything. I haven’t even got a knife and fork,” she said.
She is now seeking advice from a special flood recovery centre in the city about emergency funding and clean-up support.
Rick from South Bundaberg says the water through his home was knee deep.
“There’s a lot more to do yet, it’s a big job. Cleaning up is a big job,” he said.
Power is back on across Bundaberg but some roads are still cut.
The Bundaberg Regional Council says it will be weeks before the full cost of flood damage to the region is known.