Australian flood victims return to muddy homes

BRISBANE, Australia  — Evacuated victims began returning to homes caked in sludge on Friday as Australia's flood crisis eased, though one sandbagged town watched nervously as a swollen river level crept higher and forecasters warned of more rain.
Officials said they were moving from the emergency phase into cleanup as flood water levels stabilized in the hard-hit coastal city of Rockhampton and dropped further in towns further inland.
Queensland state has been in the grip of Australia's worst flooding in some 50 years since drenching tropical rains fell for days starting just before Christmas. At its worst, an area the size of France and Germany combined was covered with water, some 40 townships were inundated and nearly 4,000 people evacuated.
Police say 10 people have died in swollen rivers or floodwaters in Queensland since late November.