|Flood waters cover the land near Warwick, Queensland on December 28 as entire towns were inundated by the worst deluges in decades. More Images|
Two Blackhawk helicopters helped to relocate all 300 people living in the town of Theodore, and with the river of the same name still in flood, only police and essential services personnel remained in the town, according to the Queensland government.
Authorities have declared half of Queensland a disaster zone, and the state capital, Brisbane, has recorded its wettest December in more than 150 years. Cyclone Tasha, which hit the area on Saturday, brought further torrential rain.
Queensland's emergency services minister, Neil Roberts, said Theodore was one of about 20 communities that had to be evacuated because of the floods. The town's inhabitants have been moved to an evacuation center at a nearby mining camp in Moura and may not be able to return home for more than a week.
''The evacuation of an entire town is unprecedented in Queensland,'' Bruce Grady, the state's acting chief officer for emergency management, told the Brisbane Times. "These floodwaters are likely to remain high for a long period of time."
In the town of Bundaberg residents in some areas were being advised to leave their homes as the Burnett river rose to danger levels. Up to 500 homes are understood to have been cut off and another 300 flooded. Traffic queues leaving town stretched for kilometres as residents fled to higher ground. The floods are expected to be worse than those in 2008, leaving people affected to rebuild their lives for a second time in a matter of years.
Bundaberg has been declared a disaster area, along with Dalby, Chinchilla, Theodore, Burnett, Rockhampton, Woorabinda and Emerald. Some 700 people were sleeping in evacuation centres across the state and many more were staying with family and friends.
"Most of our major river systems have been in flood over the last week," Roberts told CNN.
Severe flooding is now threatening two cities - Rockhampton, a coastal city of 50,000 residents, and Emerald, and inland city of 15,000, he said. Australia's bureau of meteorology has warned of more flooding to come.
"Queenslanders and visitors to the state are being warned to prepare for heavy rain and flooding during the holiday period," the bureau said.
Queensland's deputy prime minister, Paul Lucas, who has put the likely bill for damages in excess of A$1bn (£650m), said the situation in parts of the state remained very serious and that he was worried about the week ahead. "A lot of that [crop damage] we won't know until the water has gone down and receded,'' he said. "Heavy rains can ruin crops that aren't even under water so that remains to be seen yet, but it will be very, very significant in its impact.''
The state's coal industry has also been hit. In the last few weeks several mining companies, including Rio Tinto Group, the world's third-largest mining company, have declared force majeures as coal production and transport have suffered. Companies typically declare force majeure when they cannot honor legal contracts due to unforeseen acts beyond their control.
Queensland produces mostly coking coal which is exported to be used in steel making, but some mines also produce thermal coal used in power generation.
Queensland's premier, Anna Bligh, has launched a flood appeal. "It is impossible not to feel for those Queensland families who have lost everything in these floods," she said. "Particularly so close to Christmas."
Floods Inundate Queensland Australia