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Riverbanks overflow in Australian outback

sydney/reuters/ Thousands of Australians were cut off by flood waters Feb. 4 as heavy rain broke riverbanks across the vast eastern outback and some families battled with deadly snakes for rooftops, rescuers said.

More than 11,000 people in Queensland state alone have been isolated a year after flash floods across Queensland and New South Wales killed around 35 people, swamped 30,000 houses and wiped out crops, roads, bridges and railway lines.

Rescue workers said river levels in some areas were again hitting levels not seen for half a century, taking a heavy toll on cotton, sugar cane, soybean and corn crops.

Flood warnings were current for dozens of rivers in New South Wales and Queensland, with some reaching flood levels of above 13 metres, weather forecasters said.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has predicted flooding will continue for days — or even weeks in some areas.

In the worst-affected region, the north of New South Wales, the town of Moree had been cut off, rescue workers said.

Rooftop rescues and air drops by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft have been underway, with residents sometimes fighting for space with snakes also trying to get to higher ground.

“The worst-affected areas for us are around Moree, where we have around 10,000 people who are isolated,” Phil Campbell, a spokesman for the State Emergency Service, told Reuters.

More than 2,000 people had been evacuated around the state with more than 16,000 cut off, he said.

Government officials have issued a string of evacuation warnings in the last few days. Hundreds of properties would be unsafe to return to immediately even once waters receded, Campbell said.

“We were told there were quite a lot of snakes trying to get up on the roofs to get to higher ground,” Campbell said.

Government agencies have set up makeshift shelters in both states for evacuees. In Queensland, the towns of Roma and Charleville have been badly hit, with St. George expected to see a major river rise soon.

Authorities were carefully watching levees set up around some communities to hold back flood waters.

On the northeastern coast, up to 180 mm more rain fell overnight around Townsville.

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