Hun­dreds flee Aus­tralian floods as dis­as­ter wors­ens

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

BUND­ABERG: Hun­dreds of peo­ple fled wors­en­ing floods in Aus­tralia's ru­ral north­east Thurs­day as of­fi­cials warned the dis­as­ter may last for weeks, prompt­ing fears over food short­ages and dis­ease out­breaks.

The lat­est evac­uees, in­clud­ing 100 res­i­dents air­lifted from one town, join over 1,000 moved ear­lier, while thou­sands more braced for large-scale in­un­da­tions in the re­gional cen­tres of Emer­ald, Bund­aberg and Rock­hamp­ton.

As dis­placed res­i­dents shel­tered in makeshift re­lief cen­tres or with friends and relatives in the farm­ing and coalmin­ing re­gion, Queens­land premier Anna Bligh warned the state was fac­ing its "tough­est hour".

"This is a dis­as­ter on an un­prece­dented scale," Bligh told re­porters. "What we've never seen is so many towns, so many com­mu­ni­ties, so many re­gions all af­fected at once. It is a mis­er­able and heart-break­ing event," she added.

Trop­i­cal cy­clone Tasha caused wide­spread flood­ing over Christ­mas in the eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant zone near Bris­bane, with rivers now swelling to record lev­els as rain­wa­ter flows down­stream.

Some 80 per­cent of Emer­ald, pop­u­la­tion 11,000, is ex­pected to be flooded af­ter a nearby river reached record lev­els, while Bund­aberg has been split in two by the in­un­da­tion and 4,000 Rock­hamp­ton prop­er­ties could also be hit.

On Thurs­day, all 100 res­i­dents of ru­ral Con­damine were air-lifted to safety, while of­fi­cials said they may need to drop food by plane to ar­eas cut off by the cri­sis.

"Some of those big­ger cen­tres, which will re­quire sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes of food and gro­ceries... may well have be­come a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem," State Re­cov­ery Co-ordi- na­tor Bruce Grady re­porters.

"We may have to look at cre­ative ways to do that. We have to look at mov­ing pro­duce by sea, plane," he said.

Mean­while of­fi­cials said wa­ter con­tam­i­nated by sewage and rot­ting an­i­mal car­casses could pose a se­ri­ous dis­ease risk, along with mos­qui­toes breed­ing in the large pools.

"One of the main rea­sons ev­ery­one had to evac­u­ate was the wa­ter, sewage and the

told health risks," Ba­nana Shire act­ing mayor Mau­reen Clancy told the Courier-Mail news­pa­per. Bligh said the dam­age bill would run into sev­eral bil­lions of dol­lars (sev­eral bil­lion US) and warned flood­wa­ters may not re­cede for an­other 10 days, with re­lief and clean-up op­er­a­tions po­ten­tially last­ing weeks.

"We've got a long way to go ahead of us and when these wa­ters re­cede, that is when we're re­ally go­ing to know the size of the prob- lem," she told re­porters.

"That is when many peo­ple will get back into their homes and it will re­ally hit them just how many of their pre­cious fam­ily pos­ses­sions have been washed away for­ever," she added. Global min­ers Rio Tinto, BHP Bil­li­ton and An­glo Amer­i­can de­clared "force ma­jeure" at var­i­ous coal projects, mean­ing pro­duc­tion may be af­fected, while swathes of cot­ton and sug­ar­cane farm­land have disap- peared un­der the wa­ters.

Else­where in Queens­land, po­lice feared the mon­soonal down­pour had claimed its first life af­ter the body of a 50-yearold man, be­lieved drowned, was fished out of a swollen river near Cairns. Large parts of the state have been de­clared nat­u­ral dis­as­ter ar­eas, giv­ing them ac­cess to emer­gency funds, while re­ports said the dam­age could send prices of mel­ons, toma­toes, man­goes and ba­nanas soar­ing. -Afp

SEOUL: South Korean pro­test­ers par­tic­i­pate, with pic­tures of South Korean Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hyun in-taik, in a rally de­nounc­ing South Korean govern­ment's pol­icy for North Korea. -Ap

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