A disaster situation has been declared and evacuations could be ordered following flooding across north Queensland impacting on hundreds of homes, cutting major roads and forcing the closure of schools.
A flood warning was issued for the Herbert River, which runs through Ingham, north of Townsville, after up to 600mm of rain fell across catchment areas in the past three days.
Water levels are peaking at 14.7 metres, similar to February 2009 flood levels.
"Flood levels are expected to slowly ease overnight Friday but remain above the major flood level, 12m, Saturday morning," , the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Water is up to the floorboards in 225 homes in and around the towns of Ingham, Innisfail and Halifax, while there have been 21 rescues by emergency services.
Emergency response crews conducted welfare checks while others were on standby to assist when waters recede and the extent of the damage was revealed.
The disaster declaration will give emergency serviced the powers they needed to respond effectively to the flood, Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said.
"Under these arrangements people and traffic may need to be directed from affected areas and evacuations may need to be undertaken," Mr Crawford said.
Meanwhile, floodwaters isolated a group of students on school camp.
Eight teachers and 72 Year 6 students from The Willows State School are trapped at the Echo Creek adventure park after roads between Cairns and Townsville were swamped by 200-250mm of rain over the past 24 hours.
But the group is not in danger.
At Ingham a creek that runs through the heart of town has split it in two, while the Bruce Highway is cut to the north and south.
Footage of a service station near the creek shows brown water surging around partially submerged petrol bowsers and inside the shop.
Food drops, by air and boat, are now under way for isolated communities in the state's west after more than a week of heavy rain across much of the state.
No more significant rain is expected as the wet weather moves farther north.
At least 14 schools and one child care centre in north and far north Queensland remain closed on Friday and extra swift water rescue crews have been sent in.
Major flood warnings remain in place for the Herbert, Tully, Murray, North Johnstone, Mulgrave, Russell and Flinders rivers. Moderate and minor flood warnings are in place for many other rivers in the region.
Australian Associated Press