Australia’s third-biggest city, Brisbane, has been submerged by flooding, putting more than twenty thousand homes at risk.
Torrents of water have destroyed houses and shut down businesses across the state of Queensland.
There are conflicting reports about the numbers of dead and missing.
At least 12 are known to have lost their lives and dozens more remain unaccounted for.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered military assistance to Queensland to help with the rescue effort.
Brisbane normally sees around 150 millimetres of rainfall on average in January.
The flash floods have taken the capital of Australia’s “sunshine state” by surprise.
Ann Lund, a Brisbane-based journalist, told euronews how her relatives had to flee their property.
Lund’s family had little time to recover their possessions.
“By the time they got there, (the water) was knee deep through their home. Things were just floating around,” she told euronews by telephone.
“I just cannot imagine how devastating it’s going to be when they finally get back to their house. Because at that time the Brisbane river was four metres above its natural level.”
“The peak isn’t expected until 4am Brisbane time tomorrow morning (Thursday) and they’re talking 5.5 metres. So we have really no idea how devastated their home is going to be.”
The price tag of Queensland’s worst-ever natural disaster is estimated at some four billion euros.