Accessibility links

Flood Waters Peak in Australian City of Brisbane

A man looks at a vehicle on a flooded street in the Brisbane suburb of Breakfast Creek, 12 Jan 2011

Large swathes of the Australian state of Queensland remain inundated as floodwaters peaked. While falling short of predicted levels, the city Brisbane has been devastated. At least 14 people have died in the floods and more than 70 remain unaccounted for.

Brisbane residents spent a sleepless night Wednesday preparing for the flood.

On Thursday, it appeared the water level did not match 1974’s record flood. But that was little consolation, as officials likened the damage across the state of Queensland to a war zone.

More than 25,000 homes and businesses have been partially or completely submerged in Australia's third largest city.

Thousands of people have been evacuated in recent days and 115,000 homes are without power.

Those who stayed at home kept a sleepless vigil Wednesday as boats torn from their moorings and pieces of bridges swept past like torpedoes.

Speaking on local radio, an evacuee described the scenes left behind.

"Had to get out this morning, the evacuee said. “I got up [and] the river was basically right up to the front of the property but by crawling over the neighbor’s fence was just able to get out."

"Got up at about half past five and lo and behold I saw a lot of water in my front yard,” said ninety-five-year-old Jim Scowls, who was carried to safety by emergency workers. “I then rang the SES [emergency services] and was finally lifted up by two or four fellows and carried me out of my yard with about two feet of water in it," Scowls said.

Military personnel have been brought in to continue the search for bodies, in towns south of Brisbane. There, witnesses described an “inland tsunami” earlier this week, sweeping across the landscape, ripping houses from their foundations and completely submerging large commercial buildings. Scores of people remain missing.

Officials have warned that the mass of water could linger for several days and the damage bill is expected to run into billions of dollars.

Queensland state officials say a reconstruction effort of "war-time" proportions will be needed to restore flood-affected areas.