Thousands of Australians were trapped on Sunday by rising east coast floodwaters which left one child dead, even as residents in the country's west began returning to their homes after horror wildfires. Officials said the northern New South Wales town of Wee Waa, 570 kilometres (355 miles) from Sydney, would be cut off for up to one week by the flooding, which has seen several rivers in the state overflow. The township of 1,800 will only be accessible by boat and helicopter and state emergency authorities said they were working to replenish food supplies. Evacuations were also underway at nearby Moree, where 60 homes were expected to be cut off as floodwaters reached their peak, while some 150 rural properties in the region were already isolated. More than 800 people had called for emergency help and 17 people were rescued from the floodwaters, which on Saturday claimed the life of a three-year-old boy who was swept into a surging storm-water drain.
The weather bureau has forecast heavy rains in northeastern Australia in coming months due to a La Nina pattern in the Pacific Ocean, which is usually associated with extreme rainfall in Australia and Asia. It is not expected to be as bad as flooding earlier this year which killed dozens of people and swamped vast tracts of the region including the city of Brisbane, which is home to some two million people. More than 30,000 homes were inundated when the Brisbane River broke its banks, bringing Australia's third-largest city to a standstill for several days in its worst deluge in more than a century. As the east grappled with flooding, residents on the nation's wildfire-ravaged west coast began returning to their homes after flames ripped through the scenic Margaret River region, destroying dozens of buildings. "We went in there and got what was left," one resident, Leif Mulik, told The West Australian newspaper. The fire, ignited on Wednesday by an ember from an earlier controlled burn-off, forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. It was still burning Sunday but officials said the fire "remains within containment lines and weather conditions are favourable."