0719 GMT February 20, 2019
The Australian Defense Forces delivered 70,000 sandbags, deployed amphibious cargo vehicles and helped pluck flashlight-wielding residents from their rooftops Monday, as monsoon rains drenched the northern state of Queensland, AFP reported.
Australia's tropical north typically experiences heavy rains during the monsoon season, but the recent downpour has seen some areas get a year's worth of rainfall in a week.
The authorities were forced to open floodgates of a major dam late Sunday, unleashing what they called "dangerous and high velocity flows."
In hard-hit Townsville, cars were mostly submerged, with picket fences barely poking through waist-deep flood waters.
Desperate residents had to contend not only with flash flooding, landslides and power blackouts, but also several saltwater crocodile sightings in residential roads and cul-de-sacs.
Queensland Police issued a blunt warning for people to stay out of floodwaters.
Emergency services have struggled to respond to the scale of the disaster, with more than 1,100 people calling for help and 18 "swift water rescues" conducted overnight.
Around 400 Townsville residents have sought shelter at nearby Lavarak military barracks.
State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned the communities face more difficulties ahead. Schools and courts remain closed, more rain and high winds are on the way and emergency warnings still in effect for more than a dozen rivers.
Up to 20,000 homes are at risk of being inundated if the rains continue, officials said.
"It's basically not just a one in 20-year event, it's a one-in-100-year event," said Palaszczuk.
"This is unprecedented, we've never seen anything like this before," she said.
Ergon Energy's spokesperson Emma Oliveri said that more than 16,000 people were without power, with the supplier unable to say when the lights will come back on.