Friday, December 31, 2010

AUSTRALIA: SEVERE FLOODING AFFECTS LARGE AREA

NEWS.COM.AU REPORT:
Queensland floods

Police officers load up equipment onto an Army Blackhawk helicopter / AFP

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A MASSIVE logistical operation is under way across Queensland to evacuate thousands of people and deliver emergency supplies to communities and properties isolated by the worst flooding in the state's recorded history.

Rising floodwaters have now hit an area bigger than France and Germany combined, with forced evacuations in the central Queensland towns of Emerald, Condamine, Theodore and the regional city of Rockhampton, which is expected to be cut off over the weekend.

More than 1000 people are already staying in 17 evacuation centres. The Queensland Emergency Service said more than 4000 people could be forced to seek sanctuary in the refuges over the next few days.

The military yesterday stepped up its involvement in the crisis, with a RAAF Hercules flying to flood-devastated Emerald - where 1200 people have already abandoned their homes - to set up an emergency shelter as Premier Anna Bligh warned the town was facing a "very serious, dire" situation.

Authorities were also predicting that more 40 per cent of Rockhampton, in eastern Queensland, would be affected by the floods as massive volumes of water flow across the plains and are expected to peak at 9m or higher by tomorrow, The Weekend Australian said.

Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter said experts could not rule out a flood to rival the 10.11m experienced in 1918. "This is a very serious situation," he said.

Emergency services set up an evacuation centre to house 1500 people at Central Queensland University, but plan to expand the capacity to 2200 later today with other refuges.

A convoy of trucks yesterday delivered 250 tonnes of food and supplies to Rockhampton while the roads were still clear, with two supermarkets flooded.

Residents had already stripped the shelves of essentials. Plans are being devised to use alternative methods of transport - including barges and military airdrops - to deliver supplies if the city and surrounding region remain cut off for up to a week, as some local authorities fear.

A further 1500 tonnes of supplies were being trucked north late yesterday and today to surrounding townships and the major centres of Townsville, Mackay and Cairns.

Authorities said it was still unclear how many people were homeless, but there are predictions that up to 200,000 people have been affected by the disaster.

Many of the evacuees could remain homeless for weeks

SOURCE http://www.news.com.au/national/thousands-forced-from-homes-military-help-called-in-as-flood-crisis-deepens/story-e6frfkvr-1225979694261

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