Australia PM tours flood-hit city where two men reported missing

The floods have been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia, while the government is giving each displaced resident up to $130, to help cover the cost of food, medication and clothing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is touring Townsville today meeting with residents whose homes have been flooded.

Evacuation efforts continue Monday in the Australian city of Townsville in the tropical northeast state of Queensland, after authorities made a decision to fully open the gates of a dam Sunday.

The weather bureau warned of "dangerous and high velocity flows" along the Ross River after the floodgates were opened fully at the Ross River dam around 8 p.m. on February 3, releasing about 1,900 cubic metres of water a second toward already flooded suburbs downstream.

It is also predicted rainfall of up to 300mm is likely on Tuesday and Wednesday in some areas, further impacting areas including Mackay, Townsville, Bowen, Ayr, Palm Island, Rollingstone, Proserpine, the Whitsunday Islands and Sarina.

In total, the floods have left up to 20,000 homes are at risk across the city.

Two police officers were left clinging to trees for about 30 minutes Sunday evening after their patrol auto was swept away by floodwaters as they were aiding evacuations.

Locals also reported several sightings of large crocodiles as a raging torrent of floodwater rips through the heart of the city.

"Anyone out there with a boat please go to ..." Emergency services struggled to respond, carrying out 18 "swift water rescues" overnight. That estimate is expected to rise as the cleanup continues.

Another Idalia resident took to Facebook late last night to ask for help saying their house was "filling up with water".

"There are hundreds and hundreds of calls for assistance", a spokeswoman said.

"There are six evacuation shelters in the area, which are all pretty much full, and there have been so many people donating things like blankets and toys for the kids that they've actually had to ask them to stop".

The decision to open the floodgates when the dam water level reached 43m was based on a 2012 study that warned doing so could cause more extensive property damage during the most extreme flooding events.

Schools in Townsville remained closed on Monday along with the city's airport.

Police Acting Chief Superintendent Steve Munro said: "We are in uncharted territory".

"They've held together and they've kept each other safe". "We're not through this yet". Emergency. Move away from Ross River now. "The real work is to make sure they can get through the clean up and resume their lives".

Disaster officials yesterday defended their decision not to forcibly move stranded residents - with 1,100 people assisted to relocate at the height of catastrophic flooding - despite special powers granted to police under a disaster declaration.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said overnight rain had thankfully missed the catchment of the dam, which remains swollen with water. "Nationally, the majority of home building and contents policies purchased, about 94%, include flood", CEO Rob Whelan said.

Her calls were echoed by Andrew Gissing, General Manager of Resilience at Risk Frontiers - who said warnings were in place for good reason.

Tracey was even in the process of gathering up supplies to donate when she was told there was no need. "In Queensland, of course, we're used to seeing natural disasters, but Townsville has never seen the likes of this".

According to CNN affiliate 9 News, supermarket shelves across the region are almost empty, with chains struggling to restock after Townsville Airport was closed and many major roads cut. "Damaging to destructive winds are possible in these intense storm cells".

"We haven't yet got to the peak. this monsoonal pressure will keep shifting, so we don't know where it's going to dump the water", she said.

Vanessa Coleman

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