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Floods submerge 22 Australian towns

WORLD
By | January 1st 2011

SYDNEY, FRIDAY

Flood water rose across Australia’s northeast on Friday, covering an area bigger than France and Germany combined, inundating 22 towns and stranding 200,000 people, and closing one of the country’s major sugar export ports.

Flooding has already shut major coal mines in Queensland state and its biggest coal export port, forcing a long list of miners such as Anglo American and Rio Tinto to slow or halt operations.

The worst flooding in about 50 years has been caused by a La Nina weather pattern which has resulted in torrential rain over the past two weeks across northeast Australia. "This disaster is a long way from over," Queensland state premier Anna Bligh told reporters.

"We now have 22 towns or cities that are either substantially flooded or isolated. That represents some 200,000 people spanning an area that’s bigger than the size of France and Germany combined," said Bligh.

Wettest spring

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured the flood-hit sugar city of Bundaberg, which closed its port today after flood debris was washed downstream into shipping channels and damaged navigation beacons. The inland sea that now stretches across Queensland is dotted with the roofs of flooded homes, islands of dry ground crowded with stranded livestock and small boats ferrying people and emergency supplies. Australia has recorded its wettest spring on record, said the nation’s weather bureau, causing six major river systems in Queensland state to flood. Several rivers in New South Wales state have also caused flood damaging the nation’s wheat crop.

Emergency authorities said the flooding was not expected to reach a peak in some areas until

tommorrow and would not recede for at least a week. Possibly as much as half the Australian wheat crop or about 10 million tonnes has been downgraded to less than milling quality because of rain damage, tightening global supplies and helping send prices for the grain up about 45 percent this year, the biggest surge since 2007.

- REUTERS

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