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Floodwaters slowly recede in eastern Australia

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Holding back Rockhampton floodwaters
  • "It will be an unprecedented long-term repair job," one official says
  • With roads underwater, some residents are still using boats to travel
  • Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated from flood-affected areas in Queensland state
  • Police say 10 people have died in flooding since November 30

Rockhampton, Australia (CNN) -- River levels were slowly receding in eastern Australia on Friday, but officials warned residents to steer clear of roads damaged by devastating floods.

In Rockhampton -- one of the hardest hit cities -- the fast-flowing Fitzroy River remained near its recent peak of 9.2 meters (about 30 feet). With many major roads underwater, some residents holed up in homes surrounded by the deluge were still using boats to travel.

Government officials warned residents to avoid flooded areas.

"We are still seeing incidents of people driving through floodwaters, getting stuck and having to be rescued. We understand people feel confined and are increasingly frustrated at not being able to get from place to place easily, but I cannot stress enough how unsafe some road infrastructure is after being flooded for days," Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Brian Codd said.

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Officials said the degree of damage remained unclear.

"The full extent of the damage to the 33,000 kilometers of state roads is impossible to quantify right now," Craig Wallace, Queensland state's minister of main roads, said.

"It will be an unprecedented long-term repair job that will take months, perhaps even years to fully complete," he said.

Rainfall continued in some areas, prolonging problems in some of the hardest hit places, Queensland's government said.

Nearly 2,000 people had been evacuated from flood-affected areas, the government said, with 640 of them in shelters across the state.

The flooding also affected about 40 mines in the coal-rich state, the government said in a statement. Environmental officials were monitoring water discharges from the mines, the statement said.

Farmers were particularly hard hit, as water washed over crops and blocked roads used to transport them to market.

Global transport of commodities like coal and steel out was also stymied.

The seasonal flooding in the state of Queensland intensified last month after monsoon rains caused rivers to spill over their banks and reach record levels.

The floodwaters covered an area the size of France and Germany combined, stretching from Queensland into the neighboring state of New South Wales.

Police said 10 people have died as a result of flooding since November 30 -- many of them swept away by swift waters.

The airport in Rockhampton closed Sunday and was expected to remain closed for weeks, according to Emergency Management Queensland.

At least 200,000 people have been affected by prolonged flooding, police have said.

CNN's Phil Black contributed to this report.