ROCKHAMPTON, Australia, Jan 7, 2011 (AFP) - Australians were greeted by scenes of devastation as they picked through their flood-shattered homes, with forecasts of more heavy rain Friday threatening a multi-million dollar clean-up.
More than 300 houses have been completely inundated by the floods caused by the torrential rain which has lashed Queensland for weeks, wiping out crops, slashing mine production and forcing thousands from their homes.
|An aerial photo shows the flooded Depot Hill area south of the flood disaster area of Rockhamption on January 6, 2011. AFP|
The large town of Rockhampton moved into recovery mode as the massive volume of water -- estimated to cover an area the size of France and Germany combined -- moved towards the sea, while residents of other communities returned home.
"It's devastation," said publican Shane Hickey as he surveyed the impact of the one-metre (three-feet) high inundation of his business in Condamine, west of Brisbane.
Hickey, allowed back into the town along with other evacuated residents on Thursday, said it looked like a cyclone had hit his Condamine Bell Hotel.
"It's just flattened everything, all the grass is mud, all the plants have been torn out of the ground, the trees have gone over and are just covered in silt and mud," he told Australian news agency AAP.
"All the fridges are gone, the freezers, washing machines, all the laundry.
"It smells. You think to yourself the best way to fix this up is to just bulldoze the lot and start again."
Inland of Rockhampton in Emerald, which suffered 80 percent floods, the clean-up was well underway with residents removing rubbish and sorting out their homes.
But the waters are set to recede slowly from Rockhampton, which is facing another dump of heavy rainfall over the weekend, and residents are not expected to be able to return to their homes for another week.
Mayor Brad Carter said the "enormous body of water", which animal protection officials say is seething with up to one million snakes and deadly saltwater crocodiles, was moving slowly.
"We are not going to see much movement, just a slight drop, so it will be a long time before many of our residents can return to their homes," Carter told the Seven Network on Friday.
The full impact of the flood is not yet known but the Queensland government has estimated the total damage bill will hit about $150 million.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said heartache was in store for many residents who would be returning to towns such as Theodore, which was completely evacuated during the floods, to inspect their homes.
"They're coming home to a lot of heartache, a lot of suffering and for many of them the first glimpse of what's been left behind of what was their precious possessions, their homes," Bligh told the Nine Network.
"I think it's going to be a very painful process."