BRISBANE, Australia - Helicopters plucked dozens of stranded Australians to safety in dramatic rooftop rescues Monday as severe floods swept the northeast, killing three people and inundating thousands of homes.
The body of one man carried away by rising waters was found in the Queensland state capital Brisbane and another further north at Gympie, following the earlier discovery of an elderly man who died near the city of Bundaberg.
A pregnant woman and her three-year-old son were hospitalised after a large tree fell on them as they were walking Monday morning in Brisbane. They were reported to have head injuries, with the child in critical condition.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that an acute emergency was unfolding in Bundaberg, home to about 50,000 people some 360 kilometres (220 miles) north of Brisbane, with people scrambling to get out as the river hit a record peak.
One family zipped their infant son into a waterproof bag to be winched to safety by helicopter as floods surrounded their car on Sunday at Biloela, west of Bundaberg.
Newman said authorities were now in "uncharted territory", with debris-laden floodwaters roaring through the town at such speeds that evacuations by water were no longer viable. There were fears homes could be ripped from foundations.
More than 2,000 houses had flooded and "many thousands" of people were affected, he said, with a "significant number" of people soon to be trapped. Some 60 patients at the local hospital were being shifted to upper floors.
"We are at a point where we've never seen floodwaters like this before," Newman told reporters.
"We're very concerned that the velocity of the water and the rise in water levels means that literally houses, particularly in North Bundaberg and maybe other locations, could be swept away. This is a very real prospect."
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