BRISBANE, Australia – Military planes were flying food and other supplies toward a major city being slowly swamped in Australia's flood emergency Monday, and police were increasing patrols in evacuated regions amid reports of looting.
Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeastern coast, filling rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.
A 41-year-old woman was swept to her death in front of her family Saturday in Burketown, in hardest-hit Queensland state. She was the only confirmed victim so far of the flood crisis, which began building shortly before Christmas after days of drenching tropical rain. Searches were under way for two other people, men in separate locations in Queensland, who were missing after being last seen in the floodwaters.
State authorities say about 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday extended emergency relief to those affected, including low-interest loans to farmers to begin cleaning up and get their businesses running again.