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1,000 People Flee Flooding in Northeast Australia

Drenching rains unleashed by a tropical cyclone have left vast tracts of Queensland state under water, Australia, 29 Dec 2010

Australian authorities say the worst flooding to hit the northeastern state of Queensland in decades has forced the evacuation of about 1,000 people from small towns in the region.

Officials said Wednesday Australian military helicopters completed an airlift of all 300 residents of the town of Theodore, leaving only a few police to guard the area. Displaced residents took refuge in evacuation centers or at the homes of family and friends.

Australia's government has declared a disaster in about half of Queensland. Torrential rain that began affecting the state on Saturday was subsiding. But, officials warned of more flooding in the coming days as river levels rise, threatening the coastal city of Rockhampton and the inland city of Emerald.

Residents of New South Wales state to the south were bracing for the floodwaters to move downstream from Queensland.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised $1 million in government aid for flooded areas and launched a public appeal for more relief funds Wednesday.

Queensland emergency management official Bruce Grady says the floodwaters are likely to remain high "for a long period of time." Officials say damage to the region's crops and farmland is likely to be significant.