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Heavy rain in Australia triggers flood evacuations in Queensland town

Emergency services in
Australia’s Queensland state have evacuated residents to higher
ground, as record-breaking floods sparked by heavy
rain lashed the region’s northwest.

Fifty three residents of the isolated Gulf Country town of
Burketown, about 2,115 km northwest of state
capital Brisbane, had been evacuated since heavy rain triggered
floods earlier this week, police said on Saturday.

Murky water lapped at the sides of buildings and transformed wide areas of land into lakes, with only the tops of trees visible, television images of the Queensland town showed.

“We are strongly urging all remaining residents to leave the community of Burketown as soon as possible,” Queensland police said in a statement posted on social media.

The elderly and young children were a priority for evacuation, they said, adding that sewerage systems had been “compromised” and power would be cut off later in the day.

Around 100 residents remained in the town, with police
urging a full evacuation on Saturday, as the nation’s weather
forecaster predicted river levels in the area to peak on Sunday.

“We are confident we can move the remaining people if we have to,” Superintendent Tom Armitt told the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation
[ABC], adding that floodwaters were still rising in the remote area.

La Nina event

The emergency comes after frequent flooding in Australia’s
east over the last two years due to a multi-year La Nina weather
event, including “once in a century” floods that hit remote
areas in the neighbouring Northern Territory, in January.

At Burketown, the flood topped the March 2011 record of 6.87
metres after up to 293 mm of rain fell on Thursday and Friday,
the Bureau of Meteorology previously said.

Police were co-ordinating the evacuation via helicopter to
the mining town of Mount Isa, about 425 km south.

At Gregory, a small town about 120 km south of
Burketown, the impact of flooding was not yet clear as
contacting the community remained difficult, the ABC reported.

Flood alerts were current on Saturday for large swaths of Queensland, and there were also warnings for severe storms, heavy rainfall, and potential flash flooding in many parts, including the Gulf Country.

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