ROCKHAMPTON, Australia, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Australian authorities called in the army to help evacuate families who refused to leave their homes amid some of the worst flooding in Queensland in a century.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported in its Saturday edition 22 towns have been isolated or inundated and disaster zones have been declared in 41 shires. Water levels hit roof lines in some areas.
The flooding, damage from which is expected to run into the billions of dollars, has affected upwards of 200,000 people.
"I just hope that people make it safely through the night," Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire said of Emerald residents who refused to leave.
People were taken from their homes in Rockhampton Friday and food drops were planned for Emerald.
Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said about 40 percent of the city is in jeopardy when the Fitzroy River peaks, most likely on Wednesday and Rockhampton's airport was due to close to commercial flights Saturday, the Daily Telegraph said.
"I can't give you what the total (damage) figure is because I can't tell you what the damage is going to be," said Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was forced to cancel a planned trip to Emerald because it was too dangerous.
There were indications Saturday afternoon the Nogoa River had receded a bit and there was a chance some people might be permitted to return to their homes in Emerald, the Daily Telegraph said. Official estimated it would months to clean up and repair damage in Emerald and the surrounding area.
Floodwaters across the state of Queensland have affected a landmass greater than the size of New South Wales.
Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser told the newspaper the list of towns affect throughout Queensland "is a long one" and two regions where citrus crops are cultivated -- Mundubbera and Gayndah – were hit hard by flooding.
Fraser said the state faces huge costs for cleaning up and recovery from the flood, and will also lose income from mining royalties for two or three months.
"These floods are going to hit the bottom line hard," he said in a statement.
Gillard toured flood-stricken areas Friday and announced families that lost their homes would receive financial assistance.
"We will make available to families who have lost their homes, or whose homes have sustained major damage, payments under the Australian government disaster relief payment system, $1,000 per adult and $400 per child," she said.
Rockhampton Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Alistair Dawson said he understands residents' desires to remain in their homes but their safety was the top priority, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said.
"If we look at where we live and our ties to our place of where we live, we have strong bonds to that," he said. "I totally understand the angst people must feel in evacuation."