Brisbane turns into a city under siege, death toll reaches 34

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Natasha Chaku

Melbourne, Jan 13 (PTI) Australia''s third largestmetropolis, Brisbane, turned into a city under siege asswelling muddy waters submerged major parts of the town,swallowed roads and the entire river front in the worst everflooding which hit 30,000 properties.

Only roof tops were visible in large parts of the cityas the flood waters from the Brisbane river breaching theirembankments crested, sinking all two storeyed houses andkeeping an estimated two million population locked indoors.

As the roaring river waters peaked one metre belowpredictions, the devastation was likened by a top official toan "aftermath of war".

Latest reports said the first death in the reelingcity had been caused when a 24-year-old man was drowned whenhe went to check his home in the disaster zone.

With his death, the toll in the current flooding roseto 14 and cumulatively the figure of the dead, officials said,was 34 in weeks of heavy rains and flash floods which have hitthe Queensland state since November.

Mercifully for the authorities, the flood waters whichhad reached peak levels of 4.46 metres around 1915 GMT, belowlevels that devastated the city in 1974, have startedreceding.

Residents heaved a sigh of relief as they woke up tothe news that they had dodged the worst case scenario.

However, 15,000 houses were completely submerged, some uptotheir roof, and more than 14,000 were partly under water.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Canberra saidtoday Indians were not among the casualties in Queenslandprovince.

The rising waters also sunk more than 8,000 commercialestablishments and wiped off the city map, Brisbane''s famouswater front.

The death of the young man prompted authorities toissue fresh warnings to others not to enter flood zones.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said 74 people werestill missing in the floods.

Bligh said the man was trying to do the right thing bychecking his father''s property.

"But he shouldn''t have been in those waters andunfortunately, it''s claimed his life," she said urgingresidents to still stay out of floodwaters.

"Please stay safe out there, it''s a dangerous placeright now. We''ve already had one death, let''s not see any moreas a result of Brisbane''s flooding," he said.

"Queensland is reeling this morning from the worstnatural disaster in our history and possibly in the history ofour nation," she said stating that the state was now facing areconstruction task of post war proportions.

"As we look across our state we''ve seenthree-quarters of our state experiencing the devastationof raging floodwaters and we now face a reconstruction task ofpost-war proportions. That is how we are seeing it and we havesteely determination to overcome what we have seen in the lastthree weeks," she said. (more) PTI NC AKD

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