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Sludge layer emerges from deadly flooding

POSTMANS RIDGE, Australia (AP) -- Deadly floodwaters that swamped Australia's third-largest city were receding today, revealing streets and homes covered in a thick layer of putrid sludge. Thirty thousand homes and businesses were swamped by the muddy waters, and tens of thousands of homes remained without power.

The death toll stood at 25, and 61 people remained missing.

"Inevitably, we will see a lot of pain and grief," Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh told the Nine Network. The slow-motion inundation of Brisbane on Wednesday night -- played out live on television before a nation transfixed -- was a critical moment in flooding that has built for weeks as rain fell incessantly across Australia's tropical northeast.

The emergency is not over, but Brisbane's escape from what forecasters had predicted would be a flood worse than one 37 years ago triggered relief nationwide.


Autocrat vows reforms in bid to quell unrest

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Tunisia's autocratic president, struggling to contain deadly riots that have destabilized his authority, made sweeping pledges for political and media freedom and said he will leave the presidency -- but not until his term ends in 2014.

Facing the worst unrest in his 23 years in power, an unusually contrite President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ordered prices on sugar, milk and bread slashed. Buoyant crowds spilled into the streets after his speech.

His pledges appeared aimed at quelling public anger while allowing him to cling to power in Tunisia, a country long cherished by European tourists for its Mediterranean beaches and its stability, and seen as an ally against terrorism.

It remained to be seen whether Ben Ali's speech will mean an end to violence that has left at least 23 people dead and perhaps dozens more. Unions were planning a general strike today in Tunis and some other regions.

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