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Fatality confirmed in Australian flooding; airport to close for weeks

From Brian Walker and Andreena Narayan, CNN
  • NEW: Electricity is intentionally cut in parts of Queensland
  • Emergency agency: 200,000 people are directly impacted by flooding
  • Rockhampton, Queensland, is the worst-hit major population center
  • Prime minister: Flooding will cost "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars"

(CNN) -- Massive flooding that has swept through Queensland, Australia, and claimed at least one life will likely force the evacuation of at least 1,000 people and close a regional airport for weeks, an emergency agency said Sunday.

The flooding has directly impacted about 200,000 people, according to Emergency Management Queensland, and has affected an area roughly the size of the entire state of New South Wales. Rockhampton, Queensland, is the worst-hit major population center, the agency said.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the agency said floodwater is receding in certain areas but is also flooding local towns as is recedes. He said electricity has been intentionally cut in areas of Queensland -- including parts of Rockhampton -- that have been inundated by flooding.

Rockhampton's regional airport closed Saturday afternoon and is expected to remain closed for the coming weeks, Emergency Management Queensland said Sunday. Meanwhile, other modes of transportation in the area were essentially reduced to boat travel, as all roads, major highways and the railway leading in and out of the city were flooded.

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A 41-year-old Queensland woman is the first confirmed fatality of the flooding. The woman, whose name was not released, was traveling with eight family members from Mount Isa to Burketown when the family's vehicles were overrun by flood waters in the town of Floraville, Emergency Management Queensland said.

After an air-and-boat search that lasted more than 12 hours, the woman's body was recovered around 10 a.m. Sunday, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the causeway where she had disappeared, the agency said.

All other members of the family were rescued safely.

Towns across the northeastern state have been flooded since monsoon rains about a week ago caused rivers to spill their banks and reach record levels.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured the devastation on Friday and said the flooding in Queensland will cost "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Gillard traveled with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh through the sugar-producing town of Bundaberg, where flood waters reached 7.92 meters (26 feet) Thursday.

Emergency Management Queensland said about 1,000 people are expected to be evacuated from their homes in the coming days. The agency said some residents were able to leave on their own and move to higher ground before the severe flooding, heeding warnings from authorities.

CNN's Andreena Narayan contributed to this report.