Australian military flies in flood relief supplies

Updated: 2011-01-03 11:37


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Australian military flies in flood relief supplies

Partially submerged railways to transport coal are seen near the town of Emerald in Australia's state of Queensland, Jan 2, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

GLADSTONE, Australia - Military aircraft flew supplies to an Australian town slowly disappearing under floodwaters, as authorities warned on Monday that record floods that have devastated the northeast were far from over.

The spreading environmental disaster is estimated to have caused more than A$1 billion ($980 million) in damage, has forced thousands from their homes and has hit the economy hard, particularly coal mining and agriculture.

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One person has been confirmed dead in what Queensland state Treasurer Andrew Fraser called a "disaster of biblical proportions". Rivers in the state's south have hit levels higher than any on record, and are predicted to go as high as 13 metres.

The downpours have forced a string of mining companies to declare force majeure on coal contracts due to disruption to production and transport.

In the town of Rockhampton, a community of 77,000 situated 600 km (370 miles) north of the state capital Brisbane, floodwaters reached 9 metres (29.5 ft) early on Monday, said the state's emergency coordinator, police Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart.

Rockhampton's Fitzroy River is expected to hit a peak of around 9.4 metres by Wednesday, said Stewart.

"Today we'll see resupply of Rockhampton by military aircraft taking supplies into Mackay and then road transporting them down to Rockhampton. That will continue until such time as the road is cut," Stewart told a news conference.

State Premier Anna Bligh is to fly in to visit the town on Monday morning, a spokeswoman said, and discuss disaster relief with local officials.

In the south of the state, floodwaters have reached 12.6 metres at the town of Surat, where the Balonne River was already at record levels, with a peak of over 13 metres predicted on Tuesday, while the nearby Condamine River was also in full flood. Stewart said police reinforcements had been sent to the area, amid fears of looting.

"Extra police are being taken into those communities today as a pre-emptive response to the flooding that is expected over the next week or so," Stewart said

Weather forecasters at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said some of the river levels recorded in the state's south are the highest in Australia's recorded history.

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