Australia floods likely to last weeks

Military helicopters supply food and medicine to the city of Rockhampton after floods hit Queensland, killing three people.

January 04, 2011 11:20 pm | Updated October 13, 2016 06:28 pm IST

SWAMPED:  The extent of flooding in Australia is unprecedented. Here an area of Rockhampton where debris, snakes and crocodiles pose a danger to residents.

SWAMPED: The extent of flooding in Australia is unprecedented. Here an area of Rockhampton where debris, snakes and crocodiles pose a danger to residents.

The last road into the Australian city of Rockhampton was cut off by water on January 2 as Queensland's premier, Anna Bligh, warned that the floods which have overwhelmed the state may not recede for weeks.

“It looks like Rockhampton's in the middle of an inland sea. The amount of water coming down these river systems is nothing short of astonishing,” said Bligh on a visit to the city. “Given the scale and size of this disaster, and the prospect that we will see water sitting potentially for a couple of weeks, we will have major issues to deal with throughout January.” Rockhampton, which has 75,000 people, will be supplied by military helicopters and by barge. Fourteen tonnes of food and medical supplies were taken in on January 2 by road before the highway was cut off.

Area, size of France, Germany

The flooding has hit an area the size of France and Germany, affecting 2,00,000 people in more than 20 towns and cities.

Police in Rockhampton have ordered residents to leave their homes as electricity is switched off in low-lying areas.

Up to 40 per cent of the town is expected to be affected when the river peaks. Seventy people have registered at the evacuation centre in the city, though there is space for many more.

A 60-year-old man was reported to have drowned on January 2 after his car was washed off a road, bringing the number who have died to three since the flooding began on Christmas Day. Two other men travelling in the same car, aged 19 and 40, survived the accident. Ten have died since the start of the wet season in Queensland a month ago.

The acting assistant police commissioner, Alistair Dawson, asked people not to drive through floodwaters. “I really want to urge people to be cautious around water,” he said. “As soon as we can open roads, we will.” While some areas are braced for the full force of the flood, others have begun the clean-up. Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, has announced grants of up to A$25,000 (£16,000) for small businesses affected by the crisis.

“The extent of flooding being experienced by Queensland is unprecedented, and requires a national and united response to provide as much support to communities as we can,” she said.

Gillard paid tribute to the way people were coping with the crisis, and said the government would do all it could to help them recover. “We know there are far too many families who have had to leave not only their homes, but also their businesses. This targeted financial assistance will help them minimise their economic losses as they embark on the very difficult recovery period that lies ahead, and help businesses start trading as soon as possible,” she said.

Gillard acknowledged that the clean-up bill would be in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Coal industry affected

Queensland's massive coal industry has been devastated by the flooding. “We have three-quarters of our coal fields unable to operate and unable to supply markets,” Bligh told ABC Television. “There is likely to be a significant long-term effect from that — and not only nationally.”— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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