Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Rain renews Australian flood fears

Floodwaters are seen in the Depot Hill district of Rockhampton, Australia (AP)
Floodwaters are seen in the Depot Hill district of Rockhampton, Australia (AP)
Floodwaters are seen in the Depot Hill district of Rockhampton, Australia (AP)
An island is formed by floodwater stranding vehicles and other equipment in Rockhampton, Australia (AP)
In this photo provided by the Rockhampton Regional Council, water floods over the Road near Rockhampton Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farmin
A wallaby stands on a large round hay bale trapped by rising flood waters outside the town of Dalby in Queensland, Australia
In this image made from AuBC video via Associated Press Television News, State Emergency Service (SES) workers on boats, along with a couple, left, make their ways in a flooded street in Rockhampton, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Days of pounding rain last week left much of northeastern Australia swamped by a sea of muddy water, with flooding affecting about 200,000 people in an area larger than France and Germany combined. (AP Photo/AuBC via Associated Press Television News) AUSTRALIA OUT, TV OUT
This image made from AuBC video via Associated Press Television News shows a flooded street in Rockhampton, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Days of pounding rain last week left much of northeastern Australia swamped by a sea of muddy water, with flooding affecting about 200,000 people in an area larger than France and Germany combined. (AP Photo/AuBC via Associated Press Television News) AUSTRALIA OUT, TV OUT
In this photo provided by the Rockhampton Regional Council, water floods over the runway of the Rockhampton airport, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region. (AP Photo/Rockhampton Regional Council) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jason McInnes pushes a wheelbarrow of sandbags in Rockhampton, Australia Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. Residents of Rockhampton, cut off by some of the country's worst flooding in decades are being warned to stay out of the water, and not just because of the risk of being swept away: Debris, snakes and even crocodiles could also pose a danger. (AP Photo/AAP Image, Chris Wills) AUSTRALIA OUT, ONLINE OUT, NO ARCHIVES, NO SALES
In this photo released by the Northern Territory Police, four German tourists rest on the roof of their vehicle as they wait for their rescue from the flooded Magela Creek, near Jabiru, Australia, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. Drenching rain that started before Christmas has flooded an area the size of France and Germany combined. (AP Photo/Northern Territory Police) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Property covered in floodwaters near Emerald, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
In this aerial photo provided by the Queensland Police, a property is threatened with floodwaters near Emerald, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.
In this photo provided by the Queensland Police, two police officers walk along a flooded creek at Innisfail, Australia, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.
In this photo provided by the Queensland Police, a flood gauge on the Fitzroy River shows the rising water compared to past flood high water marks in Rockhampton, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the cattle and fruit and vegetable farming region.
In this photo provided by the Rockhampton Regional Council, water floods over the Road near Rockhampton Australia, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Floodwaters that cover an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward Australia's northeast coast, filling bulging rivers to overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities

Almost a foot (30cm) of rain in just a few hours has renewed flood fears in Australia's already waterlogged Queensland state, sending a surging river over its banks and into another large town.

Officials said about only 20 buildings in Maryborough, where about 22,000 people live, were expected to be flooded after the river burst its banks in the overnight downpour. The water level is expected to peak on Sunday.

"A number of businesses... will have floodwaters in their basements," Mayor Mick Kruger said.

But the new flooding was a reminder that the state has almost no capacity to absorb more heavy rain after weeks of drenching tropical weather submerged an area the size of Germany and France combined.

Ten people have died since late November and about 200,000 have been affected by the floods. Roads and railway lines have been cut, Queensland's big-exporting coal industry has virtually shut down, and cattle ranching and farming across a large part of the state are at a standstill.

While new rain was causing problems in some parts of the state, officials said a massive relief operation has moved from emergency operations to recovery, as the city of Rockhampton and other towns wait for water levels to drop, and dozens of others begin mopping up sludge.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard flew to several towns cut off by floodwaters or partially underwater today, and sought to reassure residents that their towns would be restored in an operation led by an army general who said it might take years to fix all the damaged roads, railway lines and bridges.

"Until we see these floodwaters recede, we won't see the true extent of the damage," she told reporters in the town of St George.

Queensland Premier has said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could be as high as 5 billion dollars (£3.2 billion).

Floodwater draining east toward the ocean was still rising in some places, such as St George, where about 2,500 residents were bracing for the second major flood in less than a year.

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