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Thousands urged to evacuate as Queensland floodwaters rise

Monday 28 Jan 2013 6:13 p.m.

With floodwaters rising in Queensland, 5000 Bundaberg residents are being urged to get out now – or risk their lives.

So far three people have died after being caught in the rushing water, and now a mandatory evacuation warning is in place after the Burnett River broke its banks.

An elderly man was washed out to sea when he went to check on his yacht in southeast Queensland. His body was recovered yesterday.

Today another two bodies were recovered, including that of a motorcyclist who was swept away whilst crossing a bridge.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan says Bundaberg is one area which may be hit harder than it was in 2011.

“I’m told by people up there that this is likely to be the worst in the history, in terms of the level of the river – and that is posing some very special challenges up in that region.”

Currently 225,000 Queenslanders are without power, with the Bremer River and the Brisbane River also expected to cause major problems overnight.

Emergency responders are said to be extremely frustrated at needless rescues caused by people driving through floodwaters or going outside to watch rising rivers. 

Deputy State Emergency Services Commissioner Steve Pearce says they've received more than 700 calls for help, and in some cases, rescuers are being forced to put their lives on the line because of foolish behaviour.

“The majority of flood rescues are [of] people attempting to drive through flooded roadways or causeways – so it’s people just rolling the dice, which is really concerning obviously,” he says. 

Helicopters are scrambling to rescue those stranded on car roofs and houses, while 1200 properties are flooded in the east coast city of Bundaberg, 385km north of the state capital Brisbane. Most parts of the city are expected to be underwater at some stage.

Deputy Mayor David Batt told ABC Radio on Monday that hundreds of people need to be evacuated from their homes.

Queensland State Premier Campbell Newman says emergency crews are trying to rescue 30 people trapped on roofs in city.

In Ipswich, around 40km west of Brisbane, Mayor Paul Pisale is bracing for the worst, saying that after the deadly 2011 floods it's a case of déjà vu.

“I know I’m finding it very hard to deal with the emotional stress this morning, just talking with people,” he says.

“They’ve worked their guts out to get to this situation and now [ex-cyclone] Oswald’s come around and just kicked them in the guts – it’s very, very hard emotionally for me to feel, as you can imagine, what my community’s feeling at the moment.”

While the water peak is not expected to reach the levels seen in the devastating Queensland flood two years ago, 5000 homes are expected to be inundated.

The tail end of ex-cyclone Oswald is due to hit Sydney tonight.

RadioLIVE / AP

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