Australians clean up from floods; supplies dwindle

January 30, 2013 - 1:31 AM
Australia Flood

In this photo supplied by NSW State Emergency Service, a police officer gestures on Bruxner Highway, covered with floodwaters caused by torrential rains, in Lismore, northern New South Wales, Australia Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Thousands of Australians huddled in shelters Tuesday as torrential rains flooded cities and towns in the northeast. With floodwaters expected to peak in most of the worst-hit areas later Tuesday, officials were rushing to move those in the highest-risk areas to safety. (AP Photo/NSW State Emergency Service, Samantha Cantwell ) NO SALES

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Military personnel headed to flood-ravaged northeast Australia on Wednesday to help clean up the sludgy aftermath of floods that damaged thousands of homes and businesses and left some communities short of power, food and water.

The death toll from the flood crisis rose to five Wednesday when police discovered a man's body in a car submerged in a creek. Another man who vanished while traveling through the same area earlier this week was still missing.

Floodwaters were receding in most places, bringing relief to a region that was battered by worse floods just two years ago. But there were concerns about food and water shortages in some communities and thousands were without power.

Around 120 soldiers were en route to the hardest-hit city of Bundaberg in Queensland, 385 kilometers (240 miles) north of Brisbane. The flooding, caused by the remnants of a tropical cyclone, forced around 7,500 Bundaberg residents from their homes, inundated 2,000 houses and 200 businesses with murky water and prompted helicopter evacuations of 1,000 people.

As the cleanup began Wednesday, some residents complained about dwindling food supplies.

"People were almost coming to blows this morning at the local shop fighting over bread rolls," said Chris Pasky of Moore Park, just outside Bundaberg. "We've got a baby in the house we can't feed. We've just been forgotten."

In Brisbane, residents were warned to conserve water after muddy floodwaters put pressure on the city's water treatment plants. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that stocks of bottled water were ready to be distributed to residents if the reservoirs run dry.

In other areas, officials scrambled to deliver supplies to residents still cut off by the slowly receding waters.

"We're discovering people who are isolated, without power, without water, and we're going to be getting some long-life milk and bread supplies in through four-wheel drive later today," said Pam Parker, mayor of Logan City, south of Brisbane.

In a waterlogged area of Queensland, police have spent days hunting for two men, aged 25 and 34, who disappeared as they traveled separately to work on Sunday near Gatton, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Brisbane. Police said they believed the body found Wednesday was that of the 34-year-old, though formal identification was still pending.

The hunt was still on for the younger man, whose car was found Tuesday in the same creek where the body was recovered.

Queensland residents suffered through the worst flooding Australia had seen in decades in late 2010 and early 2011, when floodwaters from heavy rain killed 35 people, damaged or destroyed 30,000 homes and businesses and left Brisbane under water for days.

Australia has been suffering through a summer of weather extremes, with blistering temperatures and dry conditions igniting hundreds of wildfires across the southern half of the country.