Military sent in to aid Australia's flooding victims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:22am


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Australia ramped up its military response yesterday to floods that have killed four people and displaced or isolated tens of thousands in the northeast of the country.

Storms triggered by tropical cyclone Oswald have claimed four lives - the most recent a three-year-old boy killed by a falling tree - as heavy rains brought flooding to the states of Queensland and New South Wales.

The town of Bundaberg waited anxiously for the swollen Burnett River to peak at a record 9.6 metres, with officials saying 2,000 homes and 300 businesses were flooded.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said four military helicopters, 100 troops and two Hercules transport aircraft had been deployed to the area, with the evacuation of 131 patients from Bundaberg's hospital to Brisbane a priority.

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey said about 7,500 residents had been displaced by the floodwaters, with 1,000 people plucked from the roofs of their homes after the river broke its banks late on Monday.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman toured Bundaberg from the air and paid tribute to military rescue teams.

"I think the bravery of the air crew and the helicopters, both civilian and defence force … is what saved the day," said Newman. "We had a situation of fast-rising floodwaters and people being rapidly isolated on everdiminishing islands of ground."

Cyclone Oswald brought wild storms to New South Wales overnight, with floodwaters isolating 41,000 people and prompting authorities to order 2,100 people to leave the town of Grafton.

Wild weather ripped up trees and brought dangerous surf conditions in Sydney, with waves of up to 10 metres reported.