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SYDNEY: Emergency services in Australia’s Queensland state evacuated residents from a remote town to higher ground on Saturday (Mar 11), as record-breaking floods sparked by heavy rain lashed the region’s northwest.

Fifty-three residents of the isolated Gulf Country town of Burketown, about 2,115km northwest of state capital Brisbane, had been evacuated since heavy rain triggered floods earlier this week, police said Saturday.

Around 100 residents remained in the town, with police set to evacuate more people on Saturday, as the nation’s weather forecaster predicted river levels in the area to peak on Sunday.

“We are confident we can move the remaining people if we have to,” Superintendent Tom Armitt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, adding that floodwaters were still rising in the remote area.

A handout photo taken on Mar 10, 2023, by the Queensland Police Service shows the flooded northern Queensland town of Burketown, Australia. (Photo: QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE/AFP/Handout)


The swollen Albert River had transformed wide areas of land around the town into lakes, with only the tops of trees visible, aerial images provided by emergency services showed.

Police said about half of the town’s houses had been flooded.

Evacuated resident Shannon Moren told public broadcaster ABC she was worried about the impact of the flooding on livestock.

“I checked on my parents’ cattle property the other day and you can see cattle up to their necks in the water, literally swimming for their lives,” she said.

Police also urged all remaining residents to get out.

The elderly and young children were a priority for evacuation, Queensland police said in a statement, adding that sewerage systems had been “compromised” and power would also be cut off.

“It is not safe for people to remain,” police said.

Following heavy rains, which have since eased, the Albert River has topped a March 2011 record of 6.78m, Queensland’s bureau of meteorology said.

The river rose to more than 7m on Friday and was not expected to peak until Sunday, the forecaster said.

Australia has been lashed by heavy rain in the past two years, driven by back-to-back La Nina climate cycles over the Pacific.

But the country’s bureau of meteorology has predicted drier and warmer weather in the months ahead as La Nina nears its end.

An east coast flooding disaster in March last year – caused by storms in Queensland and New South Wales – claimed more than 20 lives.

Flash floods swept through parts of eastern Australia later in the year, forcing evacuations in Sydney in July and tearing homes from their foundations in some country towns in November.

Australian researchers have repeatedly warned that climate change is amplifying the risk of natural disasters.