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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
East Australia hit by flooding
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Two people are missing and thousands of others have been forced to leave their homes to escape rising floodwaters in eastern Australia.

There are fears the town of Lismore, about 600km (370miles) north of Sydney, could be inundated if flood defences fail.

Strong winds and heavy rain have already caused widespread damage.

The rains, which arrived after months of drought, have left parts of eastern Australia underwater.

On the Gold Coast south of Brisbane, police on jet skis are searching for two people thought to have been swept into a swollen river.

Shopping centres have been closed while several motorists have been rescued from stranded cars and some homes have collapsed.

Water waist-deep

The deluge has also triggered landslides and power black-outs.

Coolangatta Airport in Queensland has been closed with water waist-deep outside the terminal.

The situation in the town of Lismore in northern New South Wales is extremely precarious.

Water levels in the Wilson River, which runs through the heart of this farming community, are expected to peak above 10m. If they rise much further, flood defences will not be able to cope.

The authorities have urged thousands of residents to leave their homes and to move to higher grounds where emergency shelters have been established.

There is a warning that this unusually wild weather shows no sign of easing.

Forecasters have said the floods, gales and rough seas that have battered parts of eastern Australia have been caused by an unseasonable influx of moist tropical air from the South Pacific Ocean.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how Australia has been affected by floods



SEE ALSO:
Dry Sydney tightens water curbs
31 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia wilts in its Big Dry
09 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia in grip of water crisis
08 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia warned of water crisis
05 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Australia
04 Feb 04 |  Country profiles


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