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Australians told to flee homes

Thousands of people in the south east of Australia have been advised to flee their homes with three days of supplies after a surging river threatened another community in the flooding crisis that has devastated the country's mining industry.

Up to 1,500 homes in Kerang, in the north of Victoria state, could be affected if the Lodden River rises any further. Across Victoria state, more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes, with 51 towns and 1,500 properties already affected by rising waters.

The flooding in Victoria follows weeks of massive flooding in north-eastern Queensland, which swamped two-thirds of the giant state, paralysed several mines and left 30 people dead.

One of the victims, 13-year-old Jordan Rice, was buried alongside his mother after becoming a national hero for insisting that rescuers first save his younger brother when their family car was gripped by a raging torrent of water.

Elsewhere in Queensland, authorities gave several of the state's waterlogged coal mines special exemptions to environmental rules so they could pump water out into their already-flooded surroundings.

The mining industry estimates the flooding has cost 2.3 billion Australian dollars (£1.5 billion) in lost sales of coal, Australia's most lucrative export, causing a shortage that has pushed up global prices.

In Victoria, more than 750 miles south of the Bowen Basin which holds most of Queensland's coal mines, the Kerang levee breached at several points and people were urged to head for a relief centre on higher ground, the State Emergency Service said.

"You should ensure you have left your property immediately," the SES said in text message alerts sent to the town's 2,500 residents.

Officials later said the levee was expected to hold, despite water pouring through it at several points. Still, the threat to the town had not passed as water levels were expected to remain high for several days, said Tim Wiebusch, director of SES operations.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, in Brisbane for ministerial talks, told flood survivors: "People in Britain were watching this hour by hour, minute by minute, hoping and praying for you. It's hard to imagine the volume of water that came up from the peaceful-looking river over there."

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