Rain Eases, Flooding Continues in Australia

Bad weather is creating havoc for thousands of people in Australia.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports after a 10-year drought they call the Big Dry, Australians now have to cope with the Big Wet. An area bigger than Texas is covered in floodwater and the prediction is that the worst is yet to come.

The low-lying state of Queensland, which sprawls over the northeastern corner of the country, is exposed to shifting weather patterns in the Pacific and this year's summer rains have reached near record levels.

The town or Rockhampton, a community of 70,000 people, has been isolated by the rising waters, the highway cut, the airport out of service. Voluntary evacuations have begun.

"Well, I said we'll have to go and that's all there was to it. No use saying no," said a local.

The rains have eased but the floodwaters are still making their way downstream. River heights are not expected to peak until the middle of the week when as much as 40 percent of the town's houses could be under water. The mayor warns a compulsory evacuation order may be imposed.

"We're still expecting possibly a height of about 9 meters later tonight or early tomorrow morning," said Rockhampton mayor Brad Carter. "So this is a serious matter. We're still expecting this could potentially be the second or third largest flood this region has ever known."

One person has died in the flood so far. A woman's car was swept away in the rising waters. Others have taken refuge in care centers. It may be a month until the waters subside.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.