Melbourne: Flooding and heavy rainfall in Australia's Queensland state forced evacuations in several towns on Tuesday as river surged to near record levels.
Brisbane and at least 30 other central Queensland towns were facing flood alerts after incessant rains flooded rivers, prompting the state government to declare Chinchilla, Dalby and Theodore as disaster-hit zones, where mass evacuations are taking place, media reports said.
In Alpha, Jericho and Warra, residents may soon be asked to moved out.
Flooding has also forced evacuations in several New South Wales towns, but conditions in the state are expected to ease on Tuesday.
One of the worst hit Queensland towns is Theodore, where Dawson river reached record levels overnight and at least five helicopters were chartered to evacuate 350 residents to a mining camp at Moura, authorities said.
Queensland government declared Theodore a disaster area amid what is being called the town's worst flood in history.
Emergency Management Queensland boss Bruce Grady said the situation in the town was dire. "The Dawson has experienced record flooding overnight and we're actually looking to evacuate the entire township of 350 residents."
Grady said, "The town is actually under water. I think the police station is the only place that's currently dry."
Banana Shire councilor Vaughn Becker noted the evacuation was voluntary at this stage, but expected almost entire town to go.
Acting mayor Maureen Clancy of Banana Shire said residents were resigned to the fact they have to leave the town.
There were very small pockets that were not under water but the vast majority of the town was submerged.
She said the Dawson river remained at a dangerous level of 14.17 metres, and continued to rise. "It's exceeded the 1956 flood level that's been used as a benchmark for many, many years."
The town's evacuation began at first light and residents were waiting patiently for choppers to take them out, she said. "They're just resigned to the fact they're going to have to be relocated for a short time."
Weather bureau hydrologist Jeff Perkins said several towns in southern and central Queensland were inundated on Monday night, while eight others were bracing for severe flooding in the next 24 hours.
Dalby, Chinchilla, Warwick, Roma may have faced the worst as nearby rivers level off and forecasters predict a reprieve from the rain, Perkins said.