Rescuers are racing to reach people trapped on roofs after a flash flood hurled a tsunami-like wall of water through Australia's waterlogged east, tossing cars like toys, killing at least nine people and leaving 72 missing.
The violent surge near the town of Toowoomba after a fresh storm on Monday escalated Australia's two-week-old flood crisis in Queensland state and brought the overall death toll to 19. Until then, the flooding had unfolded slowly as swollen rivers burst their banks and inundated towns while moving downstream toward the ocean.
Emergency services officers plucked more than 40 people from houses isolated overnight by the torrent that hit the Lockyer Valley on Monday. But thunderstorms and more driving rain hampered efforts to send helicopters to help an unknown number of other people still in danger today.
Thousands were being evacuated from flood-prone areas, and residents in some sections of Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city, were being urged to move to higher ground as water from Toowoomba's flash flooding worked its way toward the coast.
The Queensland state premier Anna Bligh said four children were killed and there were "grave concerns" for at least 11 of the 72 missing. Many of those still stranded or unaccounted for are families and young children, she said.
"This has been a night of extraordinary events," Ms Bligh told reporters. "We've seen acts of extreme bravery and courage from our emergency workers. We know they're out on the front line desperately trying to begin their search and rescue efforts, and we know we have people stranded and people lost."
Queensland has been in the grip of its worst flooding for more than two weeks, after tropical downpours across a vast area of the state covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. Entire towns have been swamped, more than 200,000 people affected, and coal and farming industries virtually shut down.