Two dead as floods swamp eastern Australia
Reuters News Service, March 13, 2001
SYDNEY - A child and a middle-aged man were swept to their deaths over the weekend as some of the worst flooding in half a century struck the eastern coast of Australia, emergency officials said yesterday.
In Australia's third major floods in five months, a 50 km (30 mile) wide strip of coast stretching halfway down Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, was inundated after unusually heavy rain over the past week.
About 3,000 people had been evacuated from their homes around the towns of Grafton, Kempsey, and in other areas of the northern part of New South Wales, said Laura Goodin of the State Emergency Services.
"The rain's been unusually heavy and unusually persistent," Goodin said. "It just won't stop."
Around Kempsey, the floods were the worst since 1963 while for Grafton, they were the worst since 1950, she said. Important cotton-producing areas further inland were not affected, but fruit and vegetable production suffered, industry groups said.
No deaths were reported in New South Wales but a torrential downpour of up to 305 mm (12 inches) in just three hours flooded the Queensland state capital of Brisbane and nearby areas on Friday night, killing a 12-year-old boy and a 50-year-old man.
The boy died in a creek on Friday night while the man was swept away in his car on Sunday, said Mike Morrison of the Queensland Counter Disaster and Rescue Services.
Up to 1.2 million people were affected, but the floods were "short and sharp" and had mostly receded by Yesterday, he said.
In New South Wales, emergency services prepared to airdrop food, medicines and baby nappies to around 1,000 people left stranded by floodwaters, said Goodin. The resupply operation was expected to last a week.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicted more rain for the next four days for the affected areas of New South Wales but it would not be as heavy as over the previous week, when rainfall totalled up to 600 mm (23.6 inches), said forecaster Andrew Treloar.
It was the third time since October that major floods have hit Australia.
In February, parts of New South Wales were under water. In December and early January, an area almost twice the size of Scotland was inundated in the tropical north of Queensland, and in October, vast swathes of the island-continent were flooded.
"It's been a very stressful summer for us," said Goodin.
The La Nina weather phenomenon made 2000 the second wettest year for Australia since 1900, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
La Nina refers to extensive cooling over the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, and produces significant rainfall in eastern Australia and parts of Southeast Asia. It is the opposite of the El Nino weather pattern, which can result in droughts.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
Flooding forces Australian evacuations
Emergency teams used helicopters and boats to evacuate two eastern Australian towns today, after heavy flooding destroyed the sewer systems.
Health officials worried that raw sewage flowing in the streets would cause a disease outbreak in Gladstone and Smithtown, about 300 miles north of Sydney.
Heavy rain has caused the worst flooding in decades across southeastern Queensland and eastern New South Wales.
About 3,000 people were moved from the flooded areas over the weekend. In some cases, helicopters were used to reach people stranded on the roofs of their flooded houses.
State Emergency Service workers are airlifting food and supplies to areas cut off by high water.
The flooding also has damaged the main north-south highway.
In Queensland state, two people drowned over the weekend when floodwaters pushed their cars into rain-swollen rivers.
The Associated Press contributed to this