BRISBANE, Australia - Helicopters plucked dozens of stranded Australians to safety in dramatic rooftop rescues Monday as severe floods swept the northeast, killing four people and inundating thousands of homes.
The body of one man carried off 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 with head injuries after a large tree fell on them as they were walking in Brisbane. The boy later died in hospital, Australian Associated Press reported late Monday.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that an acute emergency was unfolding in Bundaberg, home to about 50,000 people some 360 kilometres 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, with the 14-month-old too small for the airlift harness.
Newman said authorities were now in "uncharted territory", with debris-laden floodwaters roaring through the town at such speeds that water rescues were no longer viable.
There were fears homes could be ripped from foundations and police issued a mandatory evacuation order, warning there was an "imminent danger of people being killed and drowned".