2 January 2011
Last updated at 08:14 ET
A severe thunderstorm threatening flash floods has been forecast for the already badly inundated Australian state of Queensland.
More than 20 towns have already been cut off or flooded across an area larger than France and Germany, with more than 200,000 people affected.
Meanwhile, a woman swept from the road in her car has become the first victim of the widespread flooding.
At least two other people have been reported missing.
In some areas waters are receding, but in Rockhampton – a city of 77,000 – they have yet to reach their peak.
Floodwaters could reach nine metres (30 feet) on Monday and peak at 9.4 metres on Wednesday, it says.
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Even in a land as vast as Australia, the scale of the flooding is hard to comprehend. In central Queensland, murky brown floodwaters cover an area the size of France and Germany combined, and the crisis is far from over.
The city of Rockhampton, the home to over 70,000 people, is the latest to be bracing itself for nearly 30 feet floodwaters.
The airport has been closed, its runway already inundated. A main highway has been shut, and the local mayor has warned that over 40% of the city could be flooded.
Authorities say water from the swollen Fitzroy River is swamping parts of the city faster than originally forecast, and they are considering forced evacuations.
The Bureau of Meteorology says a severe thunderstorm late on Sunday night will bring “damaging winds, very heavy rainfall, flash flooding and large hailstones” to areas including Charleville, Emerald and Blackwater.
This includes areas in the central Highlands which have been hit badly by the floods in recent weeks.
The 41-year-old woman who was killed had been trying to cross the Leichhardt River on a causeway with one other car when both vehicles were swept away.
Police rescued eight people from the cars, but were unable to reach the woman. Her body was recovered later.
Rescue workers have also been searching for a man whose small fishing boat was swamped by flood waters in the mouth of the Boyne River, and for a swimmer who disappeared in the Fitzroy river, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
There are fears that damage from the floods could cost billions of Australian dollars to repair.
Officials have warned that the mining, farming and tourism industries will all suffer.
Recovery efforts are beginning in some areas where flooding has subsided, including the severely affected towns of Emerald and Bundaberg.
Residents are preparing to return home, though the towns of Theodore and Condamine, which were completely evacuated, remain empty.
In some areas, helicopters have been used to deliver supplies and food to cut-off householders.
Residents in Rockhampton have been leaving their homes for days as water levels continue to rise.
The mayor there, Brad Carter, has warned that about 40% of the city could be affected.
The airport has been closed to commercial flights, and roads into the city from the south and the west have been cut off.
One Rockhampton resident told the BBC there had been panic buying in the city.
“Lots of people have been stocking up on fuel. I also heard about one woman who brought 20 loaves of bread from a supermarket,” Petros Khalesirad said.
And he also claimed the floods had swept snakes downstream.
“Snakes have been swimming at people’s feet as they make their way through the waters,” he said. “I know one guy who killed four snakes this morning, one of which was a taipan – the more it bites, the more it injects venom that could easily kill.”
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