Honduran drug lord cuts deal with US

He also laundered millions of dollars, and, once imprisoned in America, started spilling the beans – and terrifying powerful people back home in his native Honduras.

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From 2003 to 2013, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga and his brother Javier, along with their parents and other siblings, led a violent drug cartel called Los Cachiros, in Tocoa on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

But the brothers feared getting killed when the US Treasury Department put the names of their whole family on a black list in 2013 and the government of Honduras began seizing assets from them.

Anti-narcotics and Military Police officers prepare everything for the incineration of more than 200 kilos of cocaine seized in southern Honduras. (AFP)AFP

So Leonel Rivera started secretly recording conversations with accomplices such as Fabio Lobo, son of former president Porfirio Lobo, who served from 2010 to 2014.

He did this first on his own and later in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration starting in 2013. 

Leonel Rivera, who turned 40 on Tuesday, is a man of short stature with a thin moustache and arched eyebrows that make him look angry all the time.

Along with his brother he cut a deal with the US prosecutors in New York under which the pair landed in prison more than two years ago – but the rest of their family did not.

His mother, father, sister and a second brother live in the United States, presumably under a new identity and under the protection of the US government.

‘A little window’

US authorities said this week that Leonel Rivera will be sentenced by Judge John Koeltl on April 14.

Thanks to his revelations, the authorities in Honduras learned that the Cachiros gang had at least 22 contracts with the Lobo government, prosecutors in Honduras said Wednesday.

They also said they would investigate the government officials named by Leonel Rivera.

“This is what makes the Cachiros case so interesting, because it’s a little window into the way organized crime and elites intersect in places like Honduras,” said Steven Dudley, co-director of Insight Crime, a think tank that studies organized crime in the Americas.

“This is important because it sends the message that impunity is not total, that there is some accountability somewhere, there exists some system that is willing to hold even the highest powers accountable,” said Dudley.

“But does that transfer into real change? I am not sure yet.”

22 meetings

From December 5, 2013 to September 21, 2015, Leonel Rivera met with US prosecutors 22 times to give them information and negotiate the terms of his plea bargain, according to court documents seen by AFP.

The two brothers surrendered to the DEA in January 2015, Leonel in the Bahamas and Javier in Miami.

In April 2016, they each pleaded guilty to charges including murder, leading a drug trafficking gang and conspiring to ship illegal drugs into the US.

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The Cachiros gang took delivery of drugs from Colombia, which arrived either in planes or speedboats, and took it overland to Guatemala. From there it would move on to Mexico and then the US, Leonel Rivera said in his first testimony against Fabio Lobo on March 6.

He said that in exchange for bribes the cartel was protected by the former president, his son, his brother Ramon “Moncho” Lobo, the current Security Minister Julian Pacheco, by the legislator Antonio Hernandez, brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and by dirty cops and military people.

All of these people deny the charges, except for Fabio Lobo, who was arrested by the DEA in Haiti in 2015. He has pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking and will be sentenced on May 30. 

‘Deal with the devil’

If convicted Leonel Rivera could face life in prison but his fate depends on judge Koeltl.

His plea bargain, signed April 14 of last year, calls for the charges against him to be dropped if he tells the truth, does not commit more crimes and testifies when the government asks him to.

The US government could also grant him a so-called “5K1” card that calls for a reduced sentence and perhaps entry into a witness protection program.

“It’s the deal with the devil,” said a lawyer close to the case. “This guy has admitted to 78 murders” but the judge has complete discretion when it comes to deciding on his sentence.

In theory, “he could walk out of his sentence” meaning walk out of court and start life anew with an assumed identity, the lawyer said. 

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More than 250 dead in massive Colombia mudslides

The surge has left 206 people dead and 202 injured, while 220 remain missing, Cesar Uruena, a Red Cross official, told AFP.

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The violent weather that hit the southwestern town of Mocoa on Friday night “totally destroyed” 25 homes, he added.

They were the latest victims of floods that have struck the Pacific side of South America over recent months, also killing scores of people in Peru and Ecuador.

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In the southwestern Colombian town of Mocoa, the surge swept away houses, bridges, vehicles and trees, leaving piles of wrecked timber and brown mud, army images from the area showed.

The mudslides struck late Friday after days of torrential rain.

President Juan Manuel Santos visited Mocoa, the capital of Putumayo department, on Saturday to supervise rescue efforts in the heavily forested region.

He declared a state of “public calamity” in a Twitter message, declaring measures to speed up rescue and aid operations. He expressed his condolences to victims’ families.

“The latest death toll is 154. It is a truly terrible figure,” Santos told reporters.

The Red Cross aid group said 400 people were injured and 220 were missing.

The Red Cross had initially put the death toll at 16 but warned it would rise because hundreds of people were missing.

“The number is rising enormously and at considerable speed,” Rescue official Cesar Urena told AFP.

The disaster is of “large proportions,” he added.

Watch: Colombia landslide kills more than 250

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Nation in mourning

Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca called the development “an unprecedented tragedy” for the area.

There are “hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared,” he told W Radio.

Carlos Ivan Marquez, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, told AFP the mudslides were caused by the rise of the Mocoa River and tributaries.

Soldiers carry a victim, in Mocoa, Colombia. (AAP)AAP

The rivers flooded causing a “big avalanche,” the army said in a statement.

Some 130 millimetres of rain fell Friday night, Santos said. “That means 30 per cent of monthly rainfall fell last night, which precipitated a sudden rise of several rivers,” he said.

He promised earlier on Twitter to “guarantee assistance to the victims of this tragedy, which has Colombians in mourning.”

“Our prayers are with the victims and those affected,” he added.

Rescue efforts

The authorities activated a crisis group including local officials, military personnel, police and rescuers to search for missing people and begin removing mountains of debris, Marquez said.

A thousand emergency personnel were helping the rescue effort.

Mocoa, a town of 40,000 people, was left without power or running water.

“There are lots of people in the streets, lots of people displaced and many houses have collapsed,” retired Mocoa resident Hernando Rodriguez, 69, said by telephone.

“People do not know what to do… there were no preparations” made for such a disaster, he said.

“We are just scarcely realizing what has happened to us.”

Several deadly landslides have struck Colombia in recent months.

A landslide in November killed nine people in the southwestern rural town of El Tambo, officials said at the time.

A landslide the month before killed 10 people in the north of the country.

Watch: Historic flooding in Peru

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April Fool’s marchers in New York elect Trump as their ‘king’

Wearing Donald Trump masks and marching behind a life-sized doll of the president sitting on a toilet, dozens of people took part Saturday in a wry April Fool’s Day march in New York.

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The parade is in its 32nd year but the 2017 edition brought a new surprise: it actually happened.

Organizer Joey Skaggs, an American prankster, has for decades annually hyped an April Fool’s Day parade to lure media to the procession, but until now it has been but a hoax.

“This year was very special, we couldn’t let it pass without doing something, which is why we’re here,” 55-year-old Judy told AFP, declining to give her last name but saying she helped organize the parade.

“We need to take every opportunity we have to show our feelings about the fool in the White House,” she said, sporting a Trump mask.

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Past phantom events have fooled an array of major US outlets. 

Marchers, many wearing masks of the real estate mogul-turned-president, walked behind a rolling outhouse in which a large Trump doll sat on the toilet. 

“Donald Trump has been elected King of Fools this year – unanimously,” Skaggs told AFP.

An effort to set a world’s record for the largest collection of Trump look-alikes may have fallen a bit short, but onlookers seemed to enjoy it. 

The event’s slogan: “Make Russia Great Again.” 

The parade began in front of Central Park on Fifth Avenue and ended before Trump Tower, where the president’s wife Melania and young son Barron are still living.

New York, one of the most diverse and politically liberal cities in the country, has been the scene of dozens of protests against Trump since his stunning election victory over Hillary Clinton in November.

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Nice victims remembered on Bastille Day

French President Emmanuel Macron has sat with other dignitaries as the names of the 86 victims of the extremist attack in Nice last year were read out and posted on a board to form the shape of a heart.

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Macron took part in Nice’s sombre commemoration after he attended the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris with guest of honour US President Donald Trump.

The victims of the Nice attack included young children and a 92-year-old.

The sequence, accompanied by a choir, ended with a minute of silence for the 2016 Bastille Day revellers killed when a truck barrelled down a famed beachfront walkway in the Riviera city.

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The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the truck attack.

Macron on Friday vowed a “fight without mercy” inside and outside France to end extremist attacks like the one at Nice.

“This is what we owe you,” Macron said in a speech addressing victims’ families, officials and others.

He also promised to ensure that aid to the more than 400 injured will become a reality. He said: “I am your guarantor.”

Some of the victims’ families were present and Macron was to meet with them privately at day’s end.

Security was tight as Macron shook hands with the crowd ahead of his speech at Place Massena, a central square, protected by cement blocks to stop intruders.

At the Paris celebrations Macron thanked the US for coming to the aid of France a century ago.

Trump was the guest of honor to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US entry into World War I in 1917.

US troops took part in Friday’s parade and Macron and Trump could be seen talking animatedly as US and French fighter jets roared over Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue.

PM labels coal opponents ‘delusional’ at LNP convention

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has mounted a defence of coal-powered electricity, saying those who think the resource doesn’t have a future are “delusional”.

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Addressing the Liberal National Party state convention in Brisbane, Mr Turnbull hit out at the state Labor government’s “reckless” plans to ensure Queensland’s energy supply is carbon neutral by 2050 and said Australia had an interest in ensuring the future of coal.

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“Those people who say coal and other fossil fuels have no future are delusional and they fly in the face of all of the economic forecasts,” he told the crowd of party faithful.

His sentiments were greeted with applause by the crowd, who had a day earlier passed a resolution urging a future state LNP government to promote and support the coal industry.

The convention is also considering a resolution to call on the Turnbull government to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, which is likely to be debated on Sunday.

More done in the past year than previous three

Malcolm Turnbull says his government has done more in this past year than the coalition did in the previous three under the leadership of Tony Abbott.

The prime minister on Saturday spruiked his successes in parliament since winning the 2016 election, despite only having a wafer-thin majority.

Speaking at the Liberal National Party’s state convention in Brisbane, Mr Turnbull said he wasn’t shy to list his achievements.

“Believe me, my friends, we have done more in the last year than we did in the previous three,” he told members and delegates.

Even with just 29 of 76 seats in the Senate, Mr Turnbull noted he had restored the building industry watchdog, cut taxes for small and medium businesses, improved the child care system and introduced a new school funding model.

“We are taking real action to deliver the results that Australians need,” he said.

That was the result of the “great efforts” of his Senate team who work with the crossbench to pass legislation, the prime minister later told reporters.

‘Get behind Mr Turnbull’

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce passionately called on his colleagues in Queensland get behind Mr Turnbull – labelling him their one and only captain.

He said it was a hard job being the prime minister, with so many divergent interests at play.

“But he is unrelenting,” Mr Joyce said.

“We’ve got to get behind him now. We are going to run out into this paddock and we will run out with one captain and it’s going to be Malcolm Turnbull.”

It comes a day after the Nationals leader told federal Liberals to drop “bullshit arguments” and concentrate on things that matter to voters.

He warned on Friday that the war of words between Mr Turnbull and Tony Abbott would hurt the Liberal-Nationals in Queensland.

 

 

Indonesia restricts app over ‘terrorism’ content

The communications ministry said in a statement that “so many channels in the (Telegram) service contain radicalism and terrorism.

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.. encouragement and tips to assemble bombs or launch attacks” that it needed to block it.

The partial ban came as the country suffered from a string of attacks, including one carried out by a man police said was radicalised after reading radical material on Telegram. 

The government has so far bocked only access to the app via computer, but is preparing to impose a full ban.

“We are now preparing a process to close down Telegram app in full throughout Indonesia if Telegram does not come up with a standard operating procedure to handle law-violating contents,” the communications ministry said in a statement issued late Friday.

In June, a lone wolf attacker stabbed two police officers in a mosque. Police said the man had no links to militant groups but had been radicalised through material he read on Telegram.

Telegram is a free Russian-designed messaging app that lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000. It has attracted about 100 million users since its launch in 2013.

The app has come under fire in Russia after the state communications watchdog threatened to ban it in June, saying the company behind the service had failed to submit company details for registration.

Russia’s FSB security agency also said Telegram was used by those behind April’s Saint Petersburg metro bombing.

Telegram CEO, Pavel Durov, said the firm will investigate the Indonesia charges.

“We have never received any requests/complaints from the Indonesian government,” Durov said on Twitter.

Broncos survive Newcastle NRL scare

Brisbane’s bid for a top-four NRL finish remains on track after surviving a scare to overcome the struggling Newcastle 34-22.

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Without Queensland State of Origin forwards Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett, the Broncos on Saturday trailed 12-6 at halftime and suffered a second-term lapse before they powered home.

The loss marked the eighth time this season the Knights had blown a halftime lead, as they inched closer to a third-consecutive wooden spoon with their seventh-straight loss.

The win moves the Broncos provisionally back into the top four, ahead of Manly’s clash on Sunday with the Wests Tigers.

Five-eighth Anthony Milford also came through the McDonald Jones Stadium match unscathed on his return from a shoulder dislocation.

“We didn’t play badly,” Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said.

“They had some pretty good football.

“We completed at about 85 per cent and we did a lot of things right.”

After they trailed by six at the break, the match turned on a 70-metre James Roberts break to score after he scooped up a ball kicked at him by Knights utility Joe Wardle.

It summed up the Knights’ season, who suffered a similar fate last week to Canterbury when a ball was kicked into the Bulldogs’ Moses Mbye in the final minute to seal the result.

“When we lose that momentum, we have that disappointment and then we don’t come together with our defence,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

“And then we leak another try and were under the pump and then it’s here we go again.

“We’ve got to get that mentality where we can really drop it, get over it and get back in the fight quickly.”

The Broncos scored tries in two of their next three sets, and, in 10 minutes, the match had swung 24-12 in their favour.

However, after Chanel Mata’utia and Dane Gagai crossed in short time, the Knights were back within two points with 15 minutes to play.

Gagai was terrific for the Knights, just three days after claiming the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the Origin series, as he ran 164 metres and broke five tackles in the loss.

But he gave away their best chance to reclaim the lead when he broke free from a Brisbane error, only to pass the ball straight to opposition forward Adam Blair.

Former Knight Korbin Sims and winger Jonus Pearson sealed the match for Brisbane in the final 10 minutes.

Titanic defence drowns Cronulla

The maturity of Ash Taylor and a desperate Gold Coast defence drowned Cronulla in horrendous conditions on Saturday night.

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Heavy rain swept through the Gold Coast before and during the clash, flooding the playing arena and making conventional rugby league near impossible.

But the 22-year-old Taylor rose above it, crossing for a double and setting up two more tries in the 30-10 romp.

“I think it’s up there (with his best performances),” Henry said of Taylor.

“It was nice to see him show maturity when he had to. It’s a real positive sign for him; he’s maturing all the time.”

After a quiet State of Origin decider, Jarryd Hayne might have thought his bad week would get worse when he dropped a high ball in the opening minutes.

But his resolute defence from fullback was noted by Henry in a win that keeps the Titans within striking distance of the finals.

“The commitment to get to the ball was very, very good, which shows a desperation in our defence,” Henry said.

“I think it (the defensive effort) set the game up.”

Taylor set the tone for the night as his first-half grubber kick found Konrad Hurrell for the opening points and his solo effort from a scrum gave the Titans an 8-0 half-time lead.

The puddles disappeared in the second half, but the drier conditions only served to tighten Taylor’s grip on the game as he propped, dummied and side-stepped from close range to score his second in the 43rd minute.

He wasn’t done there, timing a short ball perfectly to put Kevin Proctor through a gap for a 20-0 lead.

Joe Greenwood then finished a terrific team try, and when Patrick Politoni barged over soon after it was 30-0 with 14 minutes to play.

The Sharks only avoided an embarrassing whitewash when Kurt Capewell and Sosaia Feki scored inside the final 10 minutes.

Sharks five-eighth James Maloney was rested after reporting neck soreness on Friday, while Jack Bird limped off with a sternum complaint in the second half not thought to be serious.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said Maloney’s absence did not alter the result.

“(Even if) Superman plays tonight, we don’t win,” he said.

“Conditions were awful but we didn’t handle those conditions and they were just too good for us in the second half.”

Australians embroiled in global laundering probe

Swiss bank Credit Suisse has been dragged into yet more tax evasion and money laundering investigations, after a tip-off to Dutch prosecutors about tens of thousands of suspect accounts triggered raids in five countries.

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Coordinated raids began on Thursday in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, France and Australia, the Dutch office for financial crimes prosecution (FIOD) said on Friday, with two arrests confirmed so far.

The Dutch are “investigating dozens of people who are suspected of tax fraud and money laundering”, the prosecutors said, adding that suspects had deposited money in a Swiss bank without disclosing that to authorities.

British tax authorities said they had opened a criminal investigation into suspected tax evasion and money laundering by “a global financial institution” and would be focusing initially on “senior employees”, along with an unspecified number of customers.

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Prosecutors in the German city of Cologne said they were also working with the Dutch. “We have launched an investigation against clients of a bank,” a spokesman said.

None of the authorities disclosed the name of the bank involved. However, Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, said local authorities had visited its offices in Amsterdam, London and Paris “concerning client tax matters” and it was cooperating.

The Dutch FIOD seized administrative records as well as the contents of bank accounts, real estate, jewellery, a luxury car, expensive paintings and a gold bar from houses in four Dutch towns and cities.

The people arrested, one in The Hague and one in the town of Hoofddorp, were not identified.

The actions angered Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General, which said it was “disconcerted” by the way Dutch authorities had handled the matter and would demand an explanation.

Dutch prosecutors responded that Swiss authorities had been left out of the investigation because none of the suspects were Swiss – they were just linked to secret Swiss bank accounts.

Australia’s minister for revenue and financial services, Kelly O’Dwyer, said the country’s financial crime investigator was looking at 340 Australians linked to Swiss bank accounts, which she said were only identified by number.

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South Africa’s Zuma cops backlash over sacking

President Jacob Zuma’s midnight sacking of his finance minister has shaken South African markets and threatens to split the African National Congress (ANC) that has governed since the end of apartheid.

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is one of the leading candidates to replace Zuma as ANC president, described the decision to remove respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan as “totally, totally unacceptable”.

However, Zuma’s reshuffle rallied support among powerful sections of the party that are hostile to banking interests they see Gordhan as representing.

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The Women’s League and the influential ANC youth wing welcomed the reshuffle, citing hopes for land redistribution for poor black farmers, free education and more black involvement in state financial institutions.

“Younger ministers will mean more transformation,” Youth Wing leader Collen Maine said.

Ramaphosa said Zuma removed Gordhan on the basis of a “spurious” intelligence report that accused him and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas of plotting with banks in London to undermine the South African economy.

Jonas was also sacked by Zuma.

Opposition parties and ANC sources say Zuma removed Gordhan because he was obstructing Zuma’s allies’ access to state funds.

Zuma and his followers have been accused of corruption and links with the wealthy Indian Gupta family.

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A report by a constitutionally mandated watchdog last year said the Guptas influenced Zuma in making government appointments.

The Guptas and Zuma deny the allegations.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe also openly criticised Zuma, in what analysts believe is a sign he will back Ramaphosa.

Rumours Zuma was to replace Gordhan have unsettled markets all week and ANC members urged the president to reconsider.

The rand has fallen five per cent against the US dollar since its highest point before the reshuffle and is set for its biggest weekly decline since December 2015.

Banking stocks were down more than five per cent on Friday and bond yields climbed sharply.

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Legal bid for Brexit reversibility filed

Campaigners mounting a legal challenge to determine whether Britain’s divorce from the European Union can be reversed say they’ve filed their written legal case.

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On Friday, two days after British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally notifying Brussels of Britain’s intent to leave the EU, the Good Law Project said it had submitted the case to a court in Dublin.

Their statement added that the campaigners would on Monday serve a motion to request a hearing, which would contain a draft of the queries that they are seeking the High Court in Dublin to refer to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

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Tax specialist Jolyon Maugham, the lawyer behind the challenge, wants the case to be sent to the ECJ in Luxembourg this summer to establish whether Britain can reverse the exit process without requiring permission from the other 27 EU members.

Maugham said he hoped the ECJ would consider the case in the next four to eight months. He has said Ireland was chosen as the case had to be brought in the EU but outside the UK, and its legal system was similar to Britain’s.

Maugham said Britons should have the right to change their minds about remaining in the EU at a later stage. Britons voted by 52-48 per cent in favour of Brexit in the June 2016 referendum.

The legal question of whether Britain could change its mind and revoke Article 50 is still open. The European Parliament said on Wednesday that Brexit could be reversed with the consent of the remaining EU members.

British government lawyers have said the process cannot now be stopped, but even David Davis, the cabinet minister in charge of leaving, has said he was unsure.

May has said that she will put the final deal she reaches at the end of two years of negotiations to parliament for a vote. If lawmakers rejected it, Britain would have no choice but to leave the EU anyway, without any trade deal with the bloc.

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Women die as floods rise in NSW, Qld

At least two people are dead and about 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate homes in northern NSW while in southeast Queensland, more than 300 properties were at risk of being swamped by “unprecedented” floodwaters.

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The tail end of cyclone Debbie has brought unprecendented rainfalls, flooding wide swathes of the region.

Low-lying areas of the Brisbane metropolitan area of Logan is expected to be among the worst affected as the Albert and Logan Rivers swell to never-before-seen levels.

“The mayor will tell you that we’ve never seen the heights of the floodwaters down here before ,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters in Beenleigh.

The area’s much-loved Yatala Pie Shop fell victim to the rising water, while the new $15 million John Muntz Bridge was ripped apart by the raging Coomera River.

In the NSW Hunter region, a 64-year-old woman died after her and her husband’s car was swept off a causeway at Gungal, west of Muswellbrook.

Another woman’s body was found by a family member on Friday morning after she disappeared overnight in floodwaters at the rural property at Upper Burringbar, 20 kilometres south of Murwillumbah in northern NSW.

Meanwhile further south, the main streets of Lismore were under water.

There are fears more victims will be discovered in the floodwaters, with state emergency volunteers still trying to complete dozens of rescues in northern NSW.

As night fell on Friday, about 1500 residents of the Tweed Shire town of Banora Point were cut off by rising water.

“Some are on the roofs of houses and trying to get to higher ground,” an SES spokeswoman told AAP.

“The area is expected to be isolated for the next 24 to 36 hours.”

It’s the worst flooding in decades, and five local areas have been declared natural disaster zones – Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed.

About 628 millimetres of rain has fallen over the Wilsons River valley since Thursday after ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie collided with a cold front from the south.

At Lismore on Friday afternoon the river came within a metre of the record 1974 flood peak, while at Murwillumbah the Tweed River peaked slightly higher than the 1954 flood.

While hundreds of rescues were being carried out, NSW SES acting deputy commissioner Mark Morrow hit out at “disgusting” footage on social media showing people surfing the floodwaters.

“Thinking it is fun … it is not,” Mr Morrow said in Sydney on Friday.

“You can die – it is that serious.”

Premier to head back to Debbie-hit north

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will travel to north Queensland to see the destruction wrought by Cyclone Debbie, after wild weather caused widespread damage across the state.

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Despite the focus turning to southeast Queensland and northern NSW following the tropical cyclone, Ms Palaszczuk on Friday insisted isolated north Queensland communities had not been forgotten.

“We are trying to get in there as quickly as possible. Let me make it very clear – help is on its way,” she said.

On Saturday, she will chair a disaster management meeting in Brisbane before heading to the Mackay and Whitsunday region, which was severely battered by the storm.

The restoration of electricity is of particular concern, with 50,000 properties in the Bowen, Mackay and Whitsunday regions still without electricity days after Debbie crossed the coast.

It is slowly being restored to petrol stations and other essential services at Airlie Beach, after generators were brought in on trucks on Friday.

The Mackay district’s sugar crops have also been hit hard by the cyclone’s wrath, with industry figures estimating $150 million damage had been done to local canegrowers’ operations in the area.

Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk said southeast Queensland had seen unprecedented rainfall in the days after the cyclone made landfall as the Bureau of Meteorology put out major flood warnings for the Logan and Albert Rivers.

Beenleigh’s train station and the Yatala Pie Shop were two victims of the rising water levels, while the John Muntz Bridge, built in the past five years at a cost of $15 million to connect the Gold Coast to Mt Tamborine, was ripped apart by the raging Coomera River.