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One dead in NSW, south-east Qld faces massive clean-up as flooding wreaks havoc on east coast

ABC News logo ABC News 31/03/2017 Riley Stuart

One person is dead and tens of thousands are unable to return to their homes in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland amid ongoing flooding caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

A woman was reported missing at Burringbar, south of Murwillumbah in NSW, overnight on Thursday and police said a body was found on a flood-affected property about 8:00am on Friday.

Between 500 and 740 millimetres of rain was recorded in NSW's Tweed River valley in the 24 hours to 2:00am on Friday, after which it began to ease.

The Wilsons River breached its banks early morning flooding the far-northern NSW town. © AAP/ Dave Hunt The Wilsons River breached its banks early morning flooding the far-northern NSW town. The main areas affected are around Murwillumbah, where residents have sought refuge in ceiling cavities and on the roofs of their homes, and in Lismore, where the Wilsons River has reached 11.6 metres.

The NSW State Emergency Service has made almost 400 flood rescues in the region and had about 2,000 calls for help since Wednesday night.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation was dangerous.

"They are very dangerous conditions, and again I want to thank all the workers for doing their best on the ground to support the thousands of people that are either evacuated or in unsafe circumstances."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed the Government's condolences to the family of the woman who died, and paid tribute to the efforts of emergency services.

"It brings out the best in Australian's the resilience and the solidarity of the communities and the extraordinary response of the emergency services supported by the Australian Defence Force," Mr Turnbull said.

"Sadly a woman's body has been found. Our sympathies go to her family and her friends."

Lismore CBD is seen flooded after the Wilson River breached its banks © AAP Image/Dave Hunt Lismore CBD is seen flooded after the Wilson River breached its banks 'There's a chance it could get a lot worse'

The heights of the Tweed River at Murwillumbah and Chinderah remain a major concern for NSW emergency services and are expected to peak about midnight with a high tide.

"With that high tide coming in, there's a chance that it could get a lot worse," Lindy Alston from the SES said.

Lismore has been affected by major flooding which is expected to move south overnight, with parts of the Richmond River yet to peak.

"Friday evening into Saturday the water is expected to head downstream," BOM's Justin Robinson said.

"Water will continue to Coraki, Bungawalbin and Woodburn, and there is a major flood warning for that area."

Lismore CBD is seen flooded after the Wilson River breached its banks early © AAP Image/ Dave Hunt Lismore CBD is seen flooded after the Wilson River breached its banks early Flood threat continues in south-east Queensland

In south-east Queensland, thousands of residents left low-lying areas of Logan, Beaudesert and the northern Gold Coast on Friday due to rising water levels in the Logan and Albert rivers.

Isolated falls of 600mm were gauged in 24 hours and winds picked up to a maximum 120 kilometres per hour — the strength of a category one cyclone — as the worst of the low-pressure system passed over the south-east on Thursday.

It moved off the coast early Friday morning, but has left a trail of damage and pushed half a dozen rivers to a major flood level, with them set to pose a threat for several days.

The Logan River peaked at more than 15 metres at Beaudesert at about 7:00am and the Albert River is at near record levels, with several hundred properties predicted to be inundated.

More than 100 residents were forced to evacuate low-lying areas in Beaudesert as floodwaters reached record levels, and about 30 homes were flooded.

Beaudesert resident Tony Griffin said the flooding had been "unbelievable".

At nearby Jimboomba residents were stranded, with the Mount Lindesay Highway blocked in both directions, and parts of Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, were inundated by a sea of brown floodwater.

More than 63,000 people remain without power, Energex said, including 25,000 on the Sunshine Coast, which was battered by the remnants of Debbie on Thursday night.

Residents wade through rising floodwaters as they leave their home in central Lismore © AAP Image/ Dave Hunt Residents wade through rising floodwaters as they leave their home in central Lismore Energex spokesman Rob Stork said the Gold and Sunshine Coast hinterlands and heavily wooded areas could be without power for days.

Many parts of the Whitsunday coast in north Queensland also remain without power and running water, several days after Cyclone Debbie tore through the region.

Ergon said more than 47,000 people were still blacked out.

The Army arrived with troops to help with the clean-up and carrying much-needed fresh water, as authorities warned anyone who did have water on tap to boil it before drinking.

The town of Airlie Beach remains blacked out, with the main supermarket almost empty and businesses shut.

Local GP Melissa McCann set up a triage in a GP surgery and said she had seen at least 60 patients over the past few days.

"Lots of lacerations, some serious, people trying to move objects throughout the cyclone to protect themselves."

Seriously injured patients were transferred about 25km inland to Proserpine Hospital.

Proserpine suffered some of the most extensive cyclone damage, with roofs off many properties and infrastructure torn apart, but the Army and emergency services found their way into the town on Thursday.

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