Australia flood crisis continues

PM Scott Morrison visits stricken Queensland area

By CNN'S ALEX STAMBAUGH CONTRIBUTED REPORTING.
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

A view of the flooded area of Townsville on February 04, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned Townsville residents that flooding has not yet reached its peak as torrential rain continues. 

(CNN) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is visiting the flood-stricken northern state of Queensland Tuesday, where supermarkets are sending in supplies by barge amid fears of food shortages.

According to CNN affiliate 9 News, supermarket shelves across the region are nearly empty, with chains struggling to restock after Townsville Airport was closed and many major roads cut. Grocery store chain Woolworths said it was sending in food supplies by barge, while supermarket chain Coles was flying stocks into Cairns and trucking them to Townsville.

Meanwhile, the rains show no signs of stopping, as Morrison and other senior government officials toured the area and met with those displaced by the floods.

"It was frankly quite overwhelming, people are in shock," Morrison said after visiting Townsville. "The real work is to make sure they can get through the clean up and resume their lives."

The government has said it will provide disaster relief for those affected by the floods, and encouraged people to apply for emergency assistant payments.

Major flood warnings remain in place for much of the coastal city of Townsville and surrounding areas, where 20,000 homes are believed to be at risk. Hundreds of people have already taken refuge in evacuation centers set up to house those who had to flee their homes, according to CNN affiliate 9 News.

9 News reported Monday that entire suburbs of Townsville were completely submerged. Local resident Gresham Ross told 9 News that the floodwaters are the highest he's seen in 30 years of living in the area.

"You just can't believe how much water has come down from the Ross River," he said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned the bill for damages could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

To make matters worse for the terrified residents fleeing their homes, there have been numerous sightings of crocodiles and snakes being swept along with the floodwaters, 9 News reported.

Mundingburra resident Erin Hahn told the broadcaster she spotted a freshwater crocodile in front of her father's house Sunday night.

"(It) was nearly a meter or two long (3.3 to 6.6 feet)," she said.

More rain to come

As of Tuesday morning, the weather shows no signs of letting up across Queensland.

"We've continued to see intense and significant rainfall through northern parts of Queensland -- around the coastal areas just northwest of Townsville, where we saw over 300 mm (11.8 inches) to 9 a.m. this morning," said Queensland Bureau of Meteorology expert Grace Legge, warning that "Townsville could still see some significant rainfall" as well as heavy wind in the days to come, which could spark further flash flooding.

Intense rain on Sunday forced authorities to open the floodgates to relieve pressure and prevent a collapse, releasing around 1,900 cubic meters of water per second downriver. The dam was holding 224% of its capacity Monday afternoon, according to 9 News, after peaking Sunday night at 247%.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said overnight rain had thankfully missed the catchment of the dam, which remains swollen with water.

"Everyone held their breath hopeful that that rainfall wouldn't fall into the Ross River catchment. It didn't," she told 9 News. "We are not out of the woods yet. If we were to receive high rainfall again in the catchment, the situation could change very quickly."

According to CNN affiliate 7 News, two men are feared missing near Townsville, amid fears they were swept away by the flood waters. Police have joined friends and family in searching for Hughie Morton, 21, and Troy Mathieson, 23, after they were last seen on Ross River Road on Monday morning.

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