Australian floods wash crocodiles into streets
Floods ravaging northern Australia have washed crocodiles onto the streets, where one was hit by a car, authorities said in a warning to residents Wednesday.
More than 60 percent of the vast northeastern state of Queensland has been declared a disaster area, and flooding after two recent cyclones has affected almost 3,000 homes, they said.
The army has been called in to help with rescue and recovery efforts, while three reports of large crocodiles washed up from flooded rivers have come in from homes in the Gulf of Carpentaria region.
"I'm not sure if it's the same crocodile moving around -- on the three sides of Normanton there's been a large croc seen right up close to the water's edge," said mayor Joyce Zahner.
"Hopefully he'll stay in the water and the kids will stay on the land," Zahner told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
A crocodile measuring 1.6 metres (5.3 feet) long was run over by a car on a street in the city of Townsville on Tuesday, wildlife rangers said.
The croc lost a few teeth and suffered bruising but was receiving medical attention, they said.
Four Chinese tourists were rescued after their camper van was swept from a remote causeway in far northern Queensland into high waters, police said.
None of the group, which included a 75-year-old, could swim and they huddled on the vehicle's roof for more than an hour before being winched to safety suffering mild hypothermia.
In the worst flood-affected town of Ingham 2,900 homes were hit, including 50 which were totally swamped, emergency authorities said.
Dozens of people had been evacuated to emergency accommodation in a nearby school as more than 360 millimetres (14 inches) of rain fell in the 24 hours from Tuesday morning.
The damage bill is estimated at 110 million dollars (76 million US) and growing, said Neil Roberts, Queensland state's emergency services minister.
"But we won't really know the full extent of the damage until the water subsides, so that figure could double, it could treble," he said, adding that it was the worst flooding he had seen in the area in 30 years.
Fresh food supplies were flown into the westerly townships of Normanton and Karumba, which had been cut off by flood waters for a number of days.
The region is bracing for further floods, with a tropical low pressure system threatening to develop into a cyclone about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off Queensland's north coast, forecasters said.
"The conditions -- as far as meteorological conditions are concerned -- are quite favourable for the system to once again develop into a tropical cyclone," a weather bureau spokesman said.
The floods came amid a record once-in-a-century heatwave in south-eastern Australia, in which 29 houses were razed by major wildfires and up to 35 people died.
Meteorologists have warned the extreme temperatures and downpours -- a common feature of Australian summers -- would only increase as a result of climate change.