Tens of thousands of Australians were stranded by floodwaters on Saturday after the remnants of a powerful cyclone swept along the country’s east coast, cutting roads, destroying bridges, killing two women and leaving four missing.
The disaster zone from ex-Cyclone Debbie stretched 1,000 km (600 miles) from Queensland state’s tropical resort islands and Gold Coast tourist strip to the farmlands of New South Wales state, with more than 100,000 homes without power.
Six large rivers had hit major flood levels and were still rising in several areas, said the Bureau of Meteorology.
Police on Friday found the body of a woman who disappeared in floodwaters near Murwillumbah just south of the Queensland border.
The second victim, a 64-year-old woman whose vehicle was swept off a causeway on a property in Gungal, in the Hunter Valley south of Sydney, was also found dead Friday.
Queensland police tweeted “we currently have four people missing… that we have serious concerns about,” but provided no further detail.
Queensland police warned that the Logan River, which runs through Beenleigh south of Brisbane, would not hit peak flood levels for several more hours while the city of Rockhampton to the north was also facing a major threat.
Commissioner Ian Stewart warned there was “still a major risk to the community around Logan and further south caused by that flooding situation.”
Rockhampton, with a population of over 80,000 on the Fitzroy River, was expected to suffer flood levels not seen for a century by Wednesday and Stewart urged residents in low-lying areas to leave.
“By Wednesday, we will be at peak flooding in Rockhampton,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from a string of towns in Queensland and New South Wales as the floods move south towards Ballina.
Category four Cyclone Debbie hit northeastern Australia on Tuesday between Bowen and Airlie Beach ripping up trees and causing widespread damage that is still being assessed.
It was downgraded to a tropical low as it tracked southeast. But the storm still packed damaging winds and dumped huge amounts of rain all the way down the east coast to Sydney and beyond before blowing out over the Tasman Sea.
Lismore, south of Murwillumbah was among the worst flooded towns on Friday with Tweed Heads, Kingscliff and Murwillumbah also subject to evacuation orders.
Just to the north the popular Queensland tourist city of Gold Coast and surrounds were also inundated.
In areas further north where the cyclone made landfall, water and power were still being restored.
Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsunday islands, where power went down for more than 50,000 people, bore the brunt of the cyclone.
The military has mobilized 1,300 soldiers for the clean-up, with helicopters and planes deploying to restore infrastructure and supply emergency food, water and fuel.
The Insurance Council of Australia declared the Queensland and northern NSW regions disaster zones, adding that the damage bill could top Aus$1 billion (US $770 million).