- Flood waters in St. George are expected to peak around 45 feet
- That is below the level of the levee bank protecting the town
- Authorities tell residents that they should not return to their homes yet
- A thunderstorm warning threatens to hamper the cleanup effort in other Queensland towns
Australian authorities on Tuesday told more than 2,000 residents who had left a town at the mercy of record-breaking flood waters to stay away until the danger had passed.
The swollen Balonne River, which cuts through the heart of the town of St. George in the eastern state of Queensland, reached 13.85 meters (45.4 feet) Tuesday morning and was expected to peak around 14 meters later in the day, said Steve Gollschewski, assistant commissioner of the Queensland Police.
Even at their forecast peak level, the flood waters should not threaten the levee bank protecting the town, which stands at 14.5 meters, Gollschewski said.
Nonetheless, the authorities said the risks remained too high to allow people back to their properties.
"The clear message for all of the residents of St. George is there will be no return today," said Ian Stewart, deputy commissioner of the Queensland Police. "Your safety is primary to our decision making."
Queensland has been deluged with heavy rains over the past week even as some parts of the region are still struggling to recover from devastating floods that took place about a year ago.
The flooding this year has also affected parts of the neighboring state of New South Wales.
According to the police, 222 residents remain in St. George -- out of a total population of about 3,000 -- along with 93 police officers and other emergency staff. The authorities had urged all residents to leave the town.
Dozens of homes in southeastern Queensland have been inundated by the floods and hundreds of people have taken shelter in evacuation centers. Many others have been taken to the state capital, Brisbane.
The army has provided military helicopters and a C-130 cargo plane to assist with search, evacuation and supply efforts.
The cleanup from the flooding in Roma, Mitchell and Charleville -- three towns near St. George -- was in danger of being hampered by more bad weather Tuesday. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area.