Clean-up begins after deadly Australia floods

Floodwaters began slowly receding across northeast Australia Wednesday as a mammoth clean-up got underway after thousands of homes were swamped, leaving at least four people dead.

Floodwaters surround properties in the town of Bundaberg in Australia's Queensland state on January 29, 2013, in this photo taken by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and released by his office. Floodwaters began slowly receding across northeast Australia Wednesday as a mammoth clean-up got underway after thousands of homes were swamped, leaving at least four people dead.

Police also held grave fears for two men missing since Sunday -- a Malaysian and a Taiwanese reportedly in Australia on a working holiday.

While the worst of the deluge appears over many homes remain without power and there were fears of drinking water shortages after rivers swollen by torrential rain from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald breached their banks this week.

Four people were killed in northern Queensland state and there was growing concern for the two men who disappeared on their way to work on Sunday.

The car of one man was found submerged near Gatton, west of the state capital Brisbane, on Tuesday afternoon, police said, while there has been no word from the other worker who was travelling in the same area.

"It is not known if the men were known to each other or were travelling in convoy," police said, confirming their nationalities.

In worst-hit Bunderberg, which was devastated as the Burnett River peaked at a record 9.6 metres (32 feet), authorities moved into recovery mode after the floods inundated about 2,000 homes and 200 businesses.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said soldiers were en route to the sugar-farming town where more than 7,500 residents have been forced to seek refuge in evacuation shelters or with family and friends.

"This morning we have 120 soldiers from the Enoggera army barracks in 44 vehicles heading north to Bundaberg," Newman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

More army resources were on standby to help in Bundaberg and other surrounding flood-hit communities, he added.

While Brisbane escaped the worst of the floodwaters, the deluge damaged water treatment plants and Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said there were concerns parts of the city of two million could run out of water.

"There is still a very real concern that water could run out," he told reporters, although provisions were in place to supply bottled water to any areas affected.

In New South Wales, a tense night for residents in the northern town of Maclean ended in relief when the Clarence River peaked just below its levee banks at 3.1 metres.

Some 750 people were evacuated as a precaution but were Wednesday returning to their homes, as were thousands evacuated in nearby Grafton.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency