( dpa ) - Australia is living up to its reputation for alternating between drought and flood with torrential rains on the east coast inundating two-thirds of the state of Queensland.
In Charleville, 750 kilometres west of Brisbane, emergency workers brought in from as far as New Zealand were Monday laying 5,000 sandbags to shore up the town's 7.5-metre levee.
Mayor Mark O'Brien said he expected the Warrego River to peak at 6.5 metres. Dozens of families have left for fear the banks will not hold.
"There are a lot of residents who are a bit gun-shy," O'Brien said. "As we all say in this community, no two floods are the same. So we are working on what we know, but there is not guarantee that that is what's going to happen."
Downstream at Emerald, where Queensland's second-biggest reservoir is located, householders on the banks of the Nagoa River have been moved.
The Fairbairn Dam in Emerald, less than a quarter full 12 months ago, has 3.6 metres of water cascading over its spillway.
The Fairbairn holds twice as much water as Sydney Harbour and the last time it was full was 17 years ago.
Farmers' lobby group AgForce chief executive Brett De Hayr said some farmers had lost all their cattle to drowning and that hundreds of thousands of kilometres of fencing had gone.
"You would be looking at losses in excess of 1 billion dollars in this sort of rainfall," de Hayr told national broadcaster ABC. "Long-term it's undeniably going to be extremely positive, but it's just in the nature of these things that individuals are going to have some fairly significant losses to wear for a while."
He was overjoyed that irrigation supplies, suspended to many farmers because of the worst drought on record, were now assured for at least five years with the Fairbairn full.
Many properties that were receiving drought-assistance payments from the government are now partially under water.
Farmer Dan Luke told the ABC that the heavy rainfall was a mixed blessing that filled dams but damaged crops and drowned livestock.
"A lot of people up and down the river have suffered extreme losses," he said. "I just flew around this morning and saw dead ones piled up in corners and cattle floating over wires - it's horrific."
Jenny Belbin, from the town of Sapphire, was among those unable to express joy at the best rains in decades. "Our house was gone. Everying is gone. It's just devastating. Everything just totally gone. Just all full of mud and water."