Relief as flood peak passes in Australia town

Residents bracing for major flooding in an Australian town breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after a swollen river peaked lower than forecast, although hundreds of homes were still inundated.

There were fears the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton could rise to nine metres (29-feet), potentially spilling “an incredible” body of water onto thousands of properties, 10 days after a cyclone dumped massive amounts of rain on Queensland state.

But it hit a high point of just 8.75 metres, dodging the worst, which Local Disaster Management Group chairman Tony Williams said was good news for the area and its residents.

“8.75 metres is such a huge relief for our community,” he said.

“They’re telling us for the next 24 hours the river will stay at that height and should start to rapidly recede over the weekend.”

But despite the good news and temporary levees being installed, low-lying areas of the town were still flooded, with Williams saying 217 homes had “water over their floorboards”.

Emergency services officials, fire crews and the army were all on standby to help with the clean-up.

Category four Cyclone Debbie roared ashore last week, leaving at least six dead, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

More than a metre of rain fell on parts of Queensland, with the huge volume of water still slowly spilling down river systems and only now reaching Rockhampton.

As the clean-up continued in Queensland and northern New South Wales, the remnants of the storm were being felt across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand.

Downgraded to a low pressure system, it has dumped torrential rain on the North Island for days, causing landslides, power blackouts and flooding.

The entire 1,600-strong population of Edgecumbe was evacuated on Thursday after two rivers burst their banks.