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Aus floods cause ‘catastrophic’ damage
Queensland, Jan 5 (Agencies):
Published on 6 Jan. 2011 1:15 AM IST
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Australia’s record floods are causing catastrophic damage to infrastructure in the state of Queensland and have forced 75 percent of its coal mines — which fuel Asia’s steel mills — to grind to a halt, Queensland’s premier said Wednesday.
The worst flooding in decades has affected an area the size of Germany and France, left towns virtual islands in a muddy inland sea, devastated crops, cut major rail and road links to coal ports, slashed exports and forced up world coal prices.
Around 1,200 homes in Queensland have been inundated, with another 10,700 suffering some damage, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said Wednesday. Some 22 towns have been cut off.
Some 200,000 people have been affected by the deluge.
“What I’m seeing in every community I visit is heartbreak, devastation,” Bligh said.
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Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio that the water had caused “catastrophic” damage to Queensland’s transport systems. The state is the world’s biggest exporter of coal used in steel-making.
“Queensland is a very big state. It relies on the lifelines of its transport system, and those transport systems in some cases are facing catastrophic damage,” Bligh said.
And she stressed the economic effects would not be restricted to Queensland.
“Seventy-five per cent of our mines are currently not operating because of this flood, so that’s a massive impact on the international markets and the international manufacture of steel,” Bligh told local television.
Analysts have forecast that the flood disaster will cut just over $5 billion off Australia’s annual output of $1.3 trillion.
The floods have been caused by a “La Nina” weather pattern, which produces monsoonal rains over the western Pacific and Southeast Asia.
The La Nina saw Australia record its third wettest year on record in 2010 and is expected to last another three months, the nation’s weather bureau said on Wednesday.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported that Queensland’s “exceptional” weather had seen the state’s average rainfall rise to nearly double that of a normal year, making it the wettest year on record, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Every month from August to December ranked in the respective top 10s of monthly rainfall, the newspaper added.
Residents in flooded towns worked desperately to build sandbag levees on Wednesday in the hope of holding back the rising waters.
In the cattle town of Rockhampton, where the Fitzroy River has already swamped 200 homes and 100 businesses, a rise of just 8 inches in floodwaters would inundate another 400 homes and lap at the front door of a further 4,000 properties.
“Let’s hope we dodge the bullet,” Queensland state disaster coordinator Ian Stewart said. “Every centimeter counts.”
Rockhampton’s mayor Brad Carter said the community appeared to have been spared any further damage. “It looks like it may have stabilized,” Carter said.
However, he warned it would be some time before people could return. “It’s going to be two weeks before people...are able to move back into their homes,” Carter said.
Despite the devastation, Carter said the residents of Rockhampton were keeping their spirits up.
“We have a very resilient community,” Carter said. “They’re holding up very well. Many of the people that live in these low-lying areas have been through these flooding events before.”
Rockhampton residents have also reported seeing higher than usual numbers of snakes, Carter said.
Saltwater crocodiles were another worry for people entering floodwaters, as the predators have been spotted from time to time in the Fitzroy River, he added.

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