Queen 'concern' at Australia floods
The Queen has extended her "sincere sympathies" to hundreds of thousands of Australians hit by floods in Queensland.
Military aircraft have dropped supplies to the 200,000 inhabitants of towns cut off by the rising tide of water, which covers an area larger than France and Germany combined.
The Queen issued a statement saying: "I have been following with great concern over the last few days the news of the devastating floods in Queensland.
"Please extend my sincere sympathies to all the people whose communities and livelihoods have been so badly damaged in this disaster."
The Queen's message was sent to Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured an evacuation centre in the flood-stricken town of Bundaberg.
Families whose homes were flooded or damaged are eligible for relief payments of 1,000 Australian dollars (£650) per adult and 400 dollars (£260) per child, she announced.
"My concern is for the people in these very difficult times," Ms Gillard said.
The premier had already pledged one million Australian dollars (£650,000) in aid to match a relief fund the state government had already established.
Half of Queensland's 715,305 square miles is affected by the flooding, officials said.
The disaster began to unfold last week when swollen rivers overflowed after days of relentless rain. While the rain has stopped, the rivers are surging to new heights and spilling into low-lying towns as the water makes its way towards the sea.