Thu, Feb 05, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Flooded Australians warned of crocodiles

AGENCIES , SYDNEY

The flooded Ingham area between Cairns and Townsville in north Queensland, Australia, is pictured in this photo released on Tuesday. Residents in the area have been warned to be on the lookout for crocodiles.

PHOTO: AFP

Australians battling major floods in Queensland have been warned to be on the look out for crocodiles and snakes, after a series of sightings in flooded towns, officials said yesterday.

More than 60 percent of Queensland — or more than 1 million kms² — has been declared a disaster area, and flooding after two recent cyclones has affected almost 3,000 homes, they said.

Some 17 rivers are in flood. Some towns are virtually underwater and others will be isolated for weeks by floodwaters, officials said.

“Unrelenting rain and flooding has battered North Queensland over recent weeks and the Queensland government is working hard to ensure residents are receiving the financial assistance and support they need,” Communities Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr said yesterday.

The damage bill is estimated at A$110 million dollars (US$76 million US) and growing, said Neil Roberts, Queensland state’s emergency services minister.

The flooding started in December, at one point closing major inland mines, and has continued, fed by a series of rain depressions and a cyclone. A low depression off the coast is currently threatening to form into a cyclone, bringing more rain.

Weather officials said yesterday that the Gulf of Carpentaria coast, the northeast coast of Queensland and the inland southwest channel country were flooded.

Some of the worst flooding was in the coastal sugar town of Ingham with residents forced to use boats to move around. Almost 3,000 homes were flood-affected in Ingham, where floodwaters were nearing a peak of 8.9m.

In the Gulf country, the Herbert River peaked at 12.25m, just below its 1967 record.

Huge crocodiles in the center of some Gulf towns have hampered rescue efforts and large numbers have reportedly been seen swimming towards the 60km-wide mouth of the flooded Norman River, local media reported.

Northwest Queensland’s Normanton has been isolated for four weeks. Barges loaded with essential supplies have been supplying the area from Cairns.

Manager of the Albion Hotel in Normanton, Donna Smith, said the town was expected to run out of beer in two days.

“We can put up with a lot of drama, no fruit and veggies, but nobody wants a pub with no beer,” Smith told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper.

Smith said a 4m-long crocodile had been seen stalking residents and dogs in the flooded main street.

“I’m not sure if it’s the same crocodile moving around — on the three sides of Normanton there’s been a large croc seen right up close to the water’s edge,” Mayor Joyce Zahner told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Hopefully he’ll stay in the water and the kids will stay on the land.”

A 1.6m-long crocodile was run over by a car on a street in the nearby city of Townsville on Tuesday, wildlife rangers said. The croc lost a few teeth and suffered bruising but was receiving medical attention, they said.

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