The Heat Is Online

Australian floods -- July, 1998

"Australian floods swamp rich farm land", Reuters, July 21, 1998.

SYDNEY -(Reuters) The worst flooding in almost a quarter of a century has swamped some of Australia's richest farm land, causing millions of dollars worth of crop damage, emergency officials said on Wednesday.

"It is a significant flood in one of Australia's richest rural and farming areas. It is doing millions of dollars worth of damage to crops in the area," State Emergency Service spokesman Rick Stone told Reuters.

Local media reported a 28-year-old man had died on Sunday while trying to cross a road that intersected with a flooding creek in the north of New South Wales state. Police could not be immediately contacted to confirm the death.

Stone said heavy rainfall over the past five days had caused flooding along about 200 km (124 miles) of the Namoi/Peel river system in the state's northwest, affecting the towns of Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri and Wee Waa.

Rising floodwater was expected later on Wednesday to peak at 8.8 metres (26 feet) in Gunnedah, causing the town's worst flood in 23 years, he said.

Heavy rain has hit New South Wales for the past five days and major flooding started on Tuesday.

Emergency volunteers were on alert and about 55 people had already been evacuated.

Stone said access roads to the small town of Wee Waa, where about 2,000 people lived, were expected to be cut from Wednesday for about a week, with other small farming communities likely to be isolated and unsealed roads closed for up to a fortnight.

New South Wales Agriculture official David Harris said the region's summer crops of cotton, sorghum and maize had already been harvested but there was serious risk to freshly sown wheat crops, the region's major agricultural produce.

"People who have got crops that are barely through the ground will run a major risk of damage from waterlogging and nitrogen deficiency," he said, adding it would be some time before damage could be estimated in terms of hectares or tonnages lost.

Harris said crops in the region had just begun to improve in recent years after an extended drought period.

Some areas had reported rainfall of about 150 mm (6 inches) in a 48-hour period, equivalent to a quarter of their annual average.

(C) Reuters Limited 1998.


"Australian floods rise again after new deluge." Reuters, Aug. 3, 1998

SYDNEY - (Reuters) A new rain deluge has caused further major flooding in rich farming areas in the northwest of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), with worsening floods expected to hit country centres on Wednesday.

The rural city of Tamworth was cut by floodwater on Tuesday afternoon while the New England Highway, about 20 km out of the city, had been closed by a major landslide, a State Emergency Service official said.

This followed overnight rainfall of 50 mm or more in the Tamworth-Gunnedah-Goondiwindi wheat and cotton growing districts.

Cotton areas are between crops but 1998/99 season wheat and barley crops were in early growth stages.

"There's nothing you can do about it. There's not a thing they (those hit by floods) can do," John Kneipp, cereals programme leader for the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, told Reuters.

"We're back into a major flood situation. Major flooding is occurring right across the Liverpool Plain, the Peel River in Tamworth is peaking at about six metres, it's all started again," he said.

New floods were rising on Tuesday just a week after the last flood, which caused hundreds of evacuations in the worst flooding in the region for almost a quarter of a century.

Limited re-evacuations were underway on Tuesday afternoon, with further evacuations expected to take place on Wednesday, emergency service officials said.

Australia's A$1.3 billion cotton crop is safe, with almost all of the 1997/98 harvest complete, about 30 percent of the crop already exported and the rest safely stored in gins and warehouses, Peter Corish, chairman of industry body Cotton Australia, told Reuters from Goondiwindi in Queensland.

For cotton growers, the effect of the rain on water storage was positive. "The water situation has turned around quite dramatically," he said.

"(But) the impact on a lot of farmers is severe," Corish said of producers who grow both cotton and grain.

"We're looking at major flooding in the Mcintyre, the Gwydir and the Namoi, some flooding in the Macquarie," he said. Peak floods were expected to hit Goondiwindi in a couple of days, while the Gwydir had broken its banks east of Moree, he said.

Wheat grown in the region, which normally produces about one million tonnes, has been hit severely. About 10 percent of wheat in the region has been affected by floods, with whatever grain which might have recovered now unlikely to do so, Kneipp said.

"It's back to a critical situation. Just as it started to subside another wave of water has hit," he said.Kneipp puts crop losses on about 100,000 hectares, worth about A$50 million.Graham Murrell of the State Emergency Service, speaking from Gunnedah, said the nearby Mooki and Namoi rivers were rising.

The worst of the flooding expected to hit Gunnedah from midnight, he said.

"It's just about a re-run of the last flood we had, and that's only a week ago," he said.

New evacuations would take place from Gunnedah from Wednesday, after some on Tuesday.

(c) Reuters Limited 1998.