Flooding returns to Australian states

Tuesday 07th Feb 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Martin Howard

Thousands of Australians were forced from their homes on Monday because of floods that have risen to record levels in some areas, taking the life of at least one person. The evacuations came as authorities issued warnings for more than a dozen rivers in the states of Queensland and New South Wales.

About 2,500 people were evacuated from the Queensland town of St. George, where flooding is expected to reach a record level of 14 metres or higher, state police have said. "We're hearing from people whose families have lived on the property for 100 or more years who've never seen water in their homes who have now got water up to the roof," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters. St. George was also hit in 2011, when flash floods across Queensland and New South Wales killed about 35 people, swamped 30,000 houses, wiping out roads, bridges and rail lines. This year's floods have resulted in tens of thousands of people being cut off in the last few days, with some having to battle with deadly snakes as they head for dry land.

As with last year's flooding local economies could be hard hit. The town of Moree, the centre of the New South Wales' cotton industry was cut in half by record floodwaters, and some estimated that farmers in the area could each lose crops worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is even a chance that the effects could have an impact far beyond Australian shores. The country is the world's largest coal exporter, and the 2011 floods pushed up global coal prices by bringing production in the region to a virtual standstill. "The coal mines themselves are not experiencing any difficulties," Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said. "So far, the Queensland coal industry, as far as we are aware, has missed the flooding."

However Mr Roche confirmed that the industry was still concerned about possible disruption if the flooding continues. Many mines in the region still have large volumes of water from last year's floods, so continued heavy rain is a real danger. It means that there is no room for complacency as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has forecast that flooding will continue for weeks in some areas.