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Death toll from Aust. flooding rises to 8

Death toll from Aust. flooding rises to 8

January 11th, 2011 in News

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) - Police say the number of people missing from flash flooding in Australia has risen to 72, with eight other people confirmed dead.

A torrent of water ripped through the Queensland city of Toowoomba and nearby towns on Monday, sweeping away cars and pedestrians and leaving dozens of other people clinging to rooftops.

The state has been deluged by heavy rains for weeks that have caused the worst flooding in decades, but officials say the sudden surge in Toowoomba came with little warning.

The onslaught of muddy water tossed cars like toys, carried away furniture as it washed through stores, prompting scores of emergency calls on Monday as it swamped Toowoomba, a city of about 90,000 in Queensland state. At least two children were among the dead.

"Right now we have every possible available resource deployed into this region to search for those people that we know are missing," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told Australia's Nine Network. "This is going to be I think a very grim day."

Late Monday, Bligh told reporters a 26-foot wall of water was coursing through the low-lying communities from Toowoomba and eastward toward the state capital, Brisbane.

Officials urged residents of towns downstream from Toowoomba to immediately move to higher ground.

Bligh said about 30 people were isolated in a school in the town of Grantham, and 46 people had already been rescued by helicopters from rooftops in a number of towns.

Darkness and fog prohibited the state emergency service helicopters from overnight rescues, and some people were still waiting to be plucked off roofs Tuesday morning.

Rescue workers were battling more bad weather Tuesday. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the region for most of the day, which could lead to more flash flooding, the Bureau of Meteorology warned.

Video taken in Toowoomba shows a man clutching a tree as the gushing water sweeps down a street, washing vehicles off the road.

"This is without a doubt our darkest hour of the last (two weeks)," Bligh told reporters.

Some areas of Queensland have had more than 13 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology said Monday.