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Flooding misery continues to hit southern hemisphere

The suffering in the southern hemisphere grinds on. Torrential rain triggered fresh flood warnings in four Australian states at the weekend just as the clean-up began in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has appealed for emergency aid for Sri Lanka where at least 38 people have died and dozens more have gone missing due to floods.

The UN said on Friday that nearly 390,000 remain homeless and 3,744 houses have been totally destroyed.

And in Brazil the death toll from floods and mudslides is now estimated to be more than 600.

Rescue operations have been made difficult in areas such as Teresopolis, Petropolis and Sumidouro cities, due to the lack of electricity and difficult conditions.

Helicopters are being used to airlift in desperately needed supplies to the hardest hit areas during breaks in the weather.

“The priority is the rescue of people who are still isolated. We have to take advantage of this break in the weather to help people in these remote, collapsed areas,” said Alexandre Aragon, head of the Brazilian National |Security Force

In some places, local residents buried their neighbours' bodies in improvised graves. Mudslides have caused most of the fatalities in Brazil, where torrential rain sent avalanches of mud and boulders smashing through communities in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro. Survivors complained yesterday that the government was being slow to rescue people trapped on remote hillsides and to find the bodies of the dead.

Uncommonly heavy rainfall — Sri Lanka's hardest-hit area, the eastern port of Batticaloa, has had more rain in the past two weeks than its annual average — has saturated several parts of the southern hemisphere.

Flood waters are receding in the worst-hit areas in eastern and central Sri Lanka, where the UN launched an aid appeal.

The flooding has devastated crops, and there are fears of water-borne diseases spreading.

More than a fifth of the country's staple rice crop, which was ready to be harvested, has been destroyed.

Money is also needed for mosquito nets, clean water and food, according to the UN.

Dozens of rural Australian communities have been sandbagging their properties as they nervously watch four river systems rising from heavy rains upstream.

More than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes in north-central Victoria state, where some towns are predicting the worst floods in 100 years.

“In some of our river systems, we are seeing unprecedented stream rises,” said State Emergency Service operations director Trevor White, adding that the flood event was one of Victoria's biggest since records began.

Neil Pankhurst, mayor of the Murray River port of Echuca, said the town's levee was designed to withstand a one-in-100-year flood, which is dangerously close to what is expected tonight.

“The levee is designed to contain a flood of the level we're expecting and we believe it will hold,” Pankhurst said.

He said some low-lying properties were likely to be isolated by floodwaters but most homes would not have water above floor level, he said.

People were watching warily after witnessing the devastation in Queensland.

Three weeks of flooding in the north-eastern state left a vast territory under water and caused 28 deaths, most of them from a flash flood that hit towns west of Brisbane on Monday. Fourteen people are still missing.

In Grantham, 70% of the town remained cordoned off while the search for bodies continued.

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