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Floods Continue To Plague Australia

Jan 24, 2011 12:38:39 AM - thesundayleader.lk

Floods continued to spread in Australia’s state of Victoria Sunday, swamping farms and forcing evacuations. A spokesman for the State Emergency Service, Kevin Monk, has revealed that flood waters are spreading to the north, rushing toward Australia’s longest river, the Murray.

Residents of Swan Hill town in Victoria state packed sandbags as they braced for floods from the Murray River. Authorities issued evacuation notices to smaller communities. Monk said the state, which suffered huge wildfires two years ago, is now seeing unprecedented flooding. He said the state will suffer significant economic loss from destroyed crop fields and housing.

More than 75 towns in Victoria state have been affected by floods that moved in from the state of Queensland, where they killed about 30 people and devastated coal mining. Queensland’s Treasurer Wayne Swan said Sunday that Australia faces an enormous economic impact from the flooding in his state.

He said Queensland’s rapid development means that the deluge is having a much greater impact on the national economy than floods that hit the state in 1974 and other natural disasters in Australia. He said coal exports will be one of the biggest casualties.

Queensland produces most of the coking coal used in the country’s steel industry. Swan said about 30,000 homes in Queensland have been damaged in the recent flooding. Heavy rains also have caused flooding in neighboring New Zealand.  Authorities there have warned residents of low-lying areas, including the country’s largest city, Auckland, to prepare for evacuation.

Meanwhile, the financial cost of the floods continues to mount. So far, there have been more than 31,000 insurance claims at a cost of $1.2 billion. Only recently that figure was $400 million but the chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia Bob Whelan says claims have risen sharply as people assess the damage.