Australia floods: Brisbane begins massive clean-up

Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, has begun to clean up mud and debris in some areas, as floodwaters begin to recede.As levels fall, residents are starting to see the full scale of the damage. At least 30,000 properties in the city have been swamped.Meteorologists have warned that the threat of further cyclones remains.Floods have surged through Queensland since last month, killing at least 19 people and displacing thousands more.Where waters have receded in the city centre, residents have had to heave sticky mud out of their houses. Officials have said the clean-up could take months.At least six suspected looters have been arrested.The Brisbane River has fallen two metres since peaking at 4.46m (14.6ft) just before 0530 local time on Thursday (1930 GMT Wednesday).Power has been restored to 170,000 homes in Brisbane, but power company Energex said 66,000 homes across south-east Queensland remained without electricity.

Meanwhile, floods continue to move southwards towards the neighbouring state of New South Wales, threatening more towns.Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh called for a spirit of co-operation in communities.”There is a lot of heartache and grief as people start to see for the first time what has happened to their homes and their streets,” she said.”In some cases we have street, after street after street where every home has been inundated to the roof level affecting thousands of people.”I encourage people please to make an effort to help your friends, help your families.”Earlier, she warned that the state was facing a reconstruction task of “post-war proportions”.Rubbish collectors have reappeared on the city’s streets, while Mayor Campbell Newman called for individuals or businesses with bulldozers and other equipment to help clear roads.”The big priority this morning and through the day is to try and get the roads open. Clean the debris and the silt off the roads and get them open,” he said.The BBC’s Phil Mercer in Brisbane says that while falling water levels will give some respite, the city now faces a huge reconstruction effort, and that some of those who have been displaced may never be able to return to their homes.

There are also 55 people reported missing, and authorities have grave concerns for a dozen of those people, our correspondent says.The floodwaters are now testing the levees in the Queensland hamlet in Goondiwindi, a town of 6,000. The warning has lead to the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes.”We are expecting this [levee] to hold but we are in unchartered territory,” Mayor Graeme Scheu said.In Brisbane, the worst-hit suburbs included Brisbane City, St Lucia, West End, Rocklea and Graceville.Brisbane airport survived the swell and remains open, with almost all flights unaffected. However, passengers are advised to check before travel.On Friday, the national weather bureau warned that above-average cyclone activity was expected to last until March. A storm in the Coral Sea is being monitored, and threatens to bring more rain, it said.The weeks of rain have been blamed on a La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific – BBC