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Australia Floods Spur Calls to Evacuate

January 11, 2011 at 5:20 PM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: Thousands of people in Brisbane, Australia, were warned to evacuate today as a flood tide approached. Water was rising in the capital of Queensland state a day after a torrent hit Toowoomba, killing at least 10 people.

We have a report narrated by Tim Ewart of Independent Television News.

TIM EWART: This is the power of the floodwater. Toowoomba is known as the Garden City, but there are few gardens left now. The flooding has been relentless here, claiming lives, wrecking homes and causing panic.

For many, there was only one way to safety. People huddled on rooftops and prayed for help, prayed, too, that the waters would not get any higher. Helicopter rescue teams winched away as many as they could, but they could not save everyone.

Queensland has paid an appalling price for the flooding of recent weeks, and there is still more to come. The state capital, Brisbane, is next in line as the floodwaters spread. In the highest-risk area of the city, people are already putting chairs on the table and heading for safety. Roads out of Brisbane are clogged, as the exodus gathers momentum.

And many routes are already impassable. Rescuers have been using tractors and boats, but not everyone can be reached.

COLLEEN BISHOP, Australia: I have a friend who’s nearly six months pregnant. She’s flooded in. All the roads to her house are completely flooded.

Her husband was at work today, and he’s been unable to get home.

TIM EWART: The Wivenhoe Dam built to protect the capital is full, and water is being released into the Brisbane River, which is now rising ominously.

People are seeking what protection they can, but sandbags will be of little use against the force of a torrent captured on video by one family in Toowoomba.

MAN: Oh, my goodness.

TIM EWART: This was the view from their apartment as a succession of cars were carried away by the floods. The forces of nature here have shown little mercy.

KWAME HOLMAN: Across Queensland, at least 20 people have died since the flooding began.

A major U.S. storm was blamed for at least 11 deaths today, after dropping snow and ice all over the South. Colder-than-usual temperatures kept ice on the roads in a region with few plows or salt-spreaders. From Arkansas to South Carolina, the ice also snapped power lines and stranded travelers at airports and bus stations.

Farther north, New York City was expecting up to 14 inches of snow with high winds. In Afghanistan, Vice President Biden promised U.S. forces will stay in the country beyond the 2014 deadline, if needed. Mr. Biden made the pledge during a meeting with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. He said training and aid will continue after U.S. combat forces begin leaving Afghanistan in July.

U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: The United States, if the Afghan people want it, are prepared, and we are not leaving in 2014.

Hopefully, we will have totally turned over the ability of the — to the Afghan security forces to maintain the security of the country. But we will — we are not leaving, if you don’t want us to leave.

KWAME HOLMAN: The vice president also said the U.S. has no intention of trying to govern or nation-build in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved to shore up ties with Yemen today. She made a surprise stop in Sanaa, the capital, and met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh. His government has been a key ally in the war on terror.

Relations with Yemen were strained after WikiLeaks released U.S. diplomatic cables. They showed Yemen secretly has allowed U.S. airstrikes against al-Qaida targets.

China has tested its first stealth fighter jet. Photos released online showed a twin engine J-20 fighter that made its maiden flight today. The test happened just hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. Gates said Hu told him the test had nothing to do with his visit. Gates also predicted North Korea will have a nuclear missile that directly threatens the U.S. within five years.

On Wall Street today, stocks made up some lost ground from recent days. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34 points to close above 11671. The Nasdaq rose nine points to close above 2716.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.