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Australians rush to join flood rescue efforts

A nation-wide emergency response effort targeting the flooded northern state of Queensland is underway in Australia. Some 1,500 people have stepped up to volunteer to help in the past 24 hours.

Residents fill sandbags outside an apartment building in the Brisbane suburb of West End Jan. 11. Australia's third largest city is expected to be hit by major floods on Thursday as the Brisbane River, which runs through the city, reaches major flood levels in the next 24 hours.

REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

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Australia’s army, police, fire departments, and some 3,000 emergency service volunteers are part of a nation-wide emergency response effort targeting the flooded northern state of Queensland.

More than 75 percent of the state, an area bigger than Texas and California combined, has been declared a disaster zone. Scores of police, emergency workers, and military personnel are on standby as the country battles rising waters that have killed 12 people so far.

More than 3,500 residents have sought refuge in some 57 temporary emergency shelters set up in schools, community centers, and sporting facilities throughout Queensland. The number of evacuees is set to increase sharply as Brisbane, the state’s capital and Australia’s third largest city, is inundated. Power has been cut to the central business district as police went door to door throughout the city ordering evacuations and patrolling flooded suburbs on jet skis.

When the waters peak, expected at 4 a.m. Thursday (Australian Eastern Standard Time), up to 40,000 properties in the city will have been flood damaged, officials say.

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