SYDNEY Jan 1 Floods that have inundated 22
Australian towns and forced more than 200,000 from their homes
headed towards the northeast coast on New Year's Day, forcing
further evacuations and warnings of 30-ft flood waters.
Australia has endured its wettest spring on record,
causing six river systems in tropical Queensland to flood, as
soaring temperatures in the states of Victoria and South
Australia sparked warnings of devastating bushfires.
The rain has flooded coal mines and hit farming hard, with
many roads still impassable, and prompted warnings of the
dangers of crocodiles and snakes in flooded homes.
The inland sea that stretches across Queensland is dotted
with the roofs of flooded homes, islands of dry ground crowded
with stranded livestock and small boats ferrying people and
On Saturday, coastal areas were preparing for the worst.
Evacuations were under way in the town of Rockhampton where
the Fitzroy River, one of Australia's largest river systems,
was expected to flood.
The town's airport was closed to commercial flights, while
relief officials warned the floods would likely reach more
than nine metres (30 ft) in height.
Although emergency government funds have been made
available to those worst hit to help with immediate needs,
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Saturday the crisis was
far from over.
"Of course there are a lot more things we're going to do
and going to need to do to help Queenslanders with these
devastating floods," she told reporters.
Bundaberg resident Sandy Kiddle hugged Gillard as she told
of seeing her house flooded.
"It was just a sea of water and I thought the beach would
never come to our house," Kiddle told Gillard at an evacuation
As the northeast struggled to recover, a new storm was
brewing off the coast of mineral-rich Western Australia.
A weather system which forecasters said could become a
tropical cyclone brought gale-force winds, forcing several
leading oil producers to halt operations and evacuate staff.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
(Sydney Newsroom +612 6273 2730)