Australian floods peaking; thousands in shelters

January 29, 2013 5:13:36 AM PST
Rescuers in northeast Australia have been helping motorists escape swift floodwaters and their helicopters are plucking stranded people from rooftops after torrential rains flooded thousands of homes and businesses.

Four people have been killed and thousands have been forced into shelters.

Floodwaters peaked today in most of the worst-hit areas. Some communities that were expecting to be inundated have escaped major damage. Levees are holding back the muddy water in one city that was in the high danger zone. But officials are still urging caution, as fast-moving floodwaters in New South Wales have prompted some 50 rescues, mostly people in cars that were swept away by the current.

Bundaberg is the hardest-hit city. Rescue crews have plucked some 1,000 people out of their homes after the river that runs through the town broke its banks. As a precaution, hospital patients were airlifted to Brisbane, some 240 miles away.