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Australian floods start to ease

Australian flood victims have been able to start returning to their homes after the crisis began to show signs of easing.

Authorities have warned people that they should stay out of the floodwaters because they are still dangerous even as they eased.

Officials in Rockhampton revealed they are now starting a clean-up operation after standing down from the emergency phase. The coastal city has been able to make the change after water levels stabilised and dropped in further inland towns.

Queensland state has been hit by the country’s worst flooding for 50 years after drenching tropical rains fell during the lead up to Christmas. Police in Queensland said that 10 people have died in swollen rivers or floodwaters in the region since late November.

At the height of the flooding, areas the size of France and Germany combined were covered by water, with almost 4,000 people evacuated from around 40 towns.

The flooding shut some 40 coal mines in the state, pushing up global prices, and has hurt wheat, mango, sugarcane and other crops. Road and rail links have been washed away in many places, and officials warn it could be months before they are restored so industry and other activity can return to normal.

Some of the 150 people of Condamine went home in a convoy on Thursday for the first time since everyone in the small cattle-ranch supply town 305km west of Brisbane, the state capital, was evacuated on Dec 30 to escape rising floodwaters.

They found the waters gone, but that 42 of the town’s 60 houses had been affected by the flood.

The town still has no drinking water and officials warned of waterborne disease. Mayor Ray Brown said electricians, plumbers, portable toilets and water and food were being brought in for residents returning Friday.

As the clean-up began in some towns, others were bracing for the worst of the floods yet to arrive.

In St George, where levies of earth and sandbags have been built around dozens of homes, officials said the floods’ peak was now expected to be lower than originally thought, meaning fewer than 30 homes in the town of some 2,500 people were at risk.

In Dalby, east of Condamine, officials said floodwaters are rising faster than expected and are expected to peak on Friday rather than the weekend. The town’s swollen creek is expected to inundate yards and a caravan park, but not to enter houses, Brown said.

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