Australian authorities on Sunday urged thousands of people in north Queensland state to move to higher ground because of the danger of flooding from torrential rains.
Queensland authorities said major flooding was underway in some suburbs of Cairns, a tourist hub of around 170,000 people located around 1,700 km (1,060 miles) north of state capital Brisbane.
“Properties in these areas may continue to experience flooding with the approaching high tide and continued rainfall. Residents should move to higher ground now,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said on its website in one of several emergency alerts for parts of north Queensland.
The flooding came with heavy rain from ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper, which hit the region this week, leaving tens of thousands without power and forcing evacuations.
Australia’s weather forecaster predicted “dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding” in Cairns – a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef – and said water levels later on Sunday could exceed a 1971 record flood peak of 4.1m (13.45 feet).
Cairns Local Disaster Management Group said homes, buildings, roads and bridges had been inundated.
“Power, water, sewerage and telephone services could be lost in the area,” the agency said in a statement.
There was also flooding about 120 km north of Cairns in the tourist town of Daintree Village, where around 350mm (13.8 inches) of rain had fallen since 9 a.m. on Saturday (2300 GMT on Friday), the weather forecaster said.
A spokesperson for the forecaster, Dean Narramore, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp the weather system had stalled but that it could move west overnight, which would ease rain in Cairns and surrounding areas.
Frequent flooding has hit Australia’s east in recent years including “once in a century” floods that inundated neighbouring Northern Territory in January during a multi-year La Nina weather event.
Australia is now enduring an El Nino weather event, typically associated with extreme events such as wildfires, cyclones, droughts and heatwaves such as the one that baked parts of the country on Saturday.