Military planes fly in supplies to flood-crisis city

MILITARY planes have been used to fly food and other supplies to a city which is being slowly swamped in Australia's flood emergency.

The crisis has also led to police increasing patrols in evacuated parts of Queensland amid claims of looting.

In Rockhampton, a coastal city of about 75,000 people, waters from the still-swelling Fitzroy River have closed the airport and cut off the main highway leading to Queensland's state capital Brisbane.

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Scores of families abandoned their homes for relief centres set up on high ground.

Queensland's deputy police commissioner and state disaster co-ordinator Ian Stewart said military planes would be used to resupply Rockhampton.

Food and supplies will be flown to the north of the city and then taken into Rockhampton by road.

Mr Stewart said police had increased their patrols of flooded towns although they had not had any confirmed cases of looting. However some residents have claimed that cars and homes had been broken into and items stolen.

Flood waters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's north eastern coast, causing rivers to overflow and inundating at least 22 towns and cities so far.

A 41-year-old woman was swept to her death in front of her family in Burketown on Saturday. She has been the only confirmed victim so far of the flood crisis, which began shortly before Christmas after days of drenching tropical rain.

However searches were also under way yesterday for two men who were last seen in flood waters in separate locations in Queensland.

Around 200,000 have been affected by the crisis so far.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has extended emergency relief to those affected to include low-interest loans to farmers to begin cleaning up and get their businesses running again. The regions affected are major cattle, fruit and vegetable farming areas.

She said: "This is a major natural disaster and recovery will take a significant amount of time."

Officials have been evacuating Rockhampton residents for days. Mayor Brad Carter warned about 40 per cent of the city could be affected by the surging waters, and residents could be forced to wait at least two weeks before returning home.

Residents have emptied supermarket shelves of food and bottled water in recent days as they prepare for the floods to hit.