The “inland tsunami” that swept through Australia’s Lockyer valley Monday killed at least ten and left 78 missing, authorities said Tuesday.
Military helicopters are currently scouring the floodwaters near Toowomba in Australia’s Queensland state for the missing 78 people.
A violent torrent of water streamed through the valley Monday, ripping houses from their foundations and tossing cars like toys as people clung to telephone poles and rooftops.
The raging channel slowed as it headed toward Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, where some fear floodwaters are set to strike next.
“This is a truly dire set of circumstances for the people of Queensland, with more flooding to come,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, according to The Associated Press.
The steady deluge in Queensland, which has swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined, began before Christmas. Monday’s devastating 6-foot wall of water brings the overall death toll to 20.
Authorities rescued over 40 Lockyer Valley residents from rooftops and evacuated thousands more. In the nearby town of Forest Hill, emergency services officers airlifted the entire population of 300 people to safety.
Search and rescue efforts were impeded by the unremitting rain and heavy thunderstorms.
Brisbane authorities are preparing for 6,500 buildings to be flooded by about 3 feet of water in the coming days, potentially affecting about 15,000 people in 80 suburbs.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson called Monday’s flash flood in Toowoomba “an inland instant tsunami,” AP reports. Officials warned that more flash floods could occur Tuesday.