Jan 2 2011
The northern Australian state of Queensland faces a flood of “biblical proportions” a local official warned yesterday, as rising water levels caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
The floods have already struck a vast swath of territory the size of France and Germany combined. More than 20 towns have been cut off or have been swamped by rivers that have burst their banks.
Touring the affected area, Queensland’s state treasurer, Andrew Fraser, said the floods would cripple the area’s economy. “The cost to the state will be huge, in direct costs such as rebuilding roads and other damaged infrastructure, and providing relief payments to families, but also in lost income, while the mining, agriculture and tourism sectors recover,” he said, adding: “It is a disaster of biblical proportions.”
Officials have warned householders to beware of venomous snakes and killer crocodiles that are threatening to invade flooded homes and businesses. About 200,000 people have been affected so far as at least six river systems experienced a flood surge following Australia’s wettest spring on record. More than 1,000 people are staying in evacuation centres with that number expected to rise to 4,000 by the middle of the week. Ironically, the huge rains have come after prolonged years of drought in the normally dry continent-sized country.
But the relief of heavy rainfall at last will be precious consolation to anyone in the flood’s path. Already some towns, such as Condamine and Theodore, have been completely evacuated. Some communities are expected to be cut off for more than a week and helicopters have been delivering supplies to isolated communities and farms. Some residents have been warned they could be trapped for up to 10 days.
The disaster has also closed several coalmines and Australia’s biggest coal-exporting port. About half the country’s wheat crop is also expected to be rain-damaged. Bundaberg, a major port for sugar exports, has also been shut down. It was hit after debris from the floods flowed down river and damaged navigation beacons.
The crisis now seems focused on the city of Rockhampton. Although it has mostly stopped raining, the extra water is still flowing downstream and the city of 77,000 is next line of the steadily rising waters. It sits on the Fitzroy river and is bracing for 30ft of water by the middle of this week with an estimated 40% of Rockhampton expected to be flooded.
Rockhampton’s airport was closed to commercial flights, while relief officials warned of record high waters. Although emergency funds have been made available to those worst hit to help with immediate needs, Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, said that the crisis was far from over.
“Of course there are a lot more things we’re going to do and going to need to do to help Queenslanders with these devastating floods,” she told reporters.
The flooding, the worst Australia has suffered for 50 years, has been caused by a so-called “La Niña” weather pattern, which cools waters in the eastern Pacific. Yet it has also seen high temperatures in Victoria and South Australia, meaning there have been warnings of major fires in the south of the country even as the north suffers devastating floods.
- ‘Biblical’ flood heads for Australian city (msnbc.msn.com)
- Australia flood zone is larger than Texas (msnbc.msn.com)
- Woman Killed By Flooding In Australia (news.sky.com)