Australia flooding of 'biblical proportions' slashes coal, agriculture exports
Australia flood rescue and relief efforts are under way to deal with what officials have called a "disaster of biblical proportions."
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In Pictures Australia floods
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It hasn’t quite been 40 days and 40 nights of rain, but the Australia flooding has already been described as a “disaster of biblical proportions,” slashing coal exports, ruining crops, and stranding 75,000 people in a coastal town-turned-island.
The flooding in northeastern Queensland covers an area the size of France and Germany combined, with at least 22 towns cut off or flooded. Authorities are saying that more than 200,000 people are affected, according to the Associated Press.
The Australian government is stepping in to assist, with New Zealand and the United States also offering help. The military is airlifting supplies to the worst-hit areas and Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pledged emergency grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses, $1,000 for every adult with immediate needs, and low-interest loans for affected families as part of the country's largest-ever flood relief package, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The floods have reportedly caused some $1 billion in infrastructure damage, and the premier of the state of Queensland said today that flooding could last weeks longer, reports the BBC.
"Given the scale and size of this disaster, and the prospect that we will see waters sitting potentially for a couple of weeks, we will continue to have major issues to deal with throughout January," Anna Bligh said on local radio late Monday.
"Rockhampton is now completely stranded – a town of 75,000 people – no airport, rail or road," she added. Residents must boil their own water and live off their personal food stockpiles in addition to whatever is flown in by the military.
Snakes take highway
Reuters describes the scene in the seaport about 300 miles north of state capital Brisbane: “Rescue workers escorted stranded patients out of hospitals, police ordered reluctant residents to leave their homes, and electricity company teams made their way up to abandoned homes to ensure power was switched off. Snakes slithered their way across the waterlogged highway a few km outside the devastated town.”
Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said the flooding would take a long time to recede, reports Agence France-Presse. "We expect to have our airport closed for the best part of three weeks," he told reporters Monday.
Rockhampton's overflowing Fitzroy River is measuring about 30 feet above normal height but is expected to peak this week. Local newspaper the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin is reporting details.
Three deaths have been reported in the past few days, in addition to at least six more deaths since late November when the heavy monsoon-season rains began.