Australia's military has been deployed to tackle devastating "once-in-a-century" floods that have inundated homes, schools and airports in the country's northeast, forcing hundreds to flee and bringing crocodiles onto the streets. The Australian Defence Forces filled sandbags, deployed amphibious cargo vehicles and helped pluck flashlight-wielding residents from their rooftops Monday, as monsoon rains drenched the northern state of Queensland.
Australia's tropical north typically experiences heavy rains during the monsoon season, but the recent downpour has far exceeded normal levels. The authorities were forced to open floodgates late Sunday, unleashing what they called dangerous and high velocity flows. Desperate residents had to contend not only with flash flooding, landslides and power blackouts, but also reptilian predators that have been spotted in residential roads and cul-de-sacs. Emergency services struggled to respond, carrying out 18 "swift water rescues" overnight.
More than 1,100 people have called the emergency services for urgent help, according to state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Around 400 Townsville residents have sought shelter at nearby Lavarak military barracks and the Red Cross is also assisting with the response and recovery effort. Palaszczuk warned the communities face more difficulties ahead. Schools and courts remain closed, more rain is on the way and emergency warnings still in effect for more than a dozen rivers. The town of Ingham, just north of Townsville, got over 10 centimetres of rain in just a few hours on Monday morning, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Winds are expected to gust at up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour on the coast. Up to 20,000 homes are at risk of being inundated if the rains continue, officials said. A silver lining to the deluge is that drought-stricken farmers in western Queensland have been boosted by the downpours.
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