Sat, Dec 11, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Worse to come as Australia flood toll rises, officials warn

AP and AFP, SYDNEY

Floods sweeping across eastern Australia that have left four people dead and cost millions of dollars in crop losses could worsen next week, emergency officials warned yesterday.

Australia’s attorney general also declared 45 communities along the country’s east coast disaster areas yesterday.

“The conditions are easing right now and over the weekend, but the flooding will potentially increase next week,” a state emergency services spokesman said.

“We are now monitoring very closely the Macquarie River, the Namoi River and the Murrumbidgee. If their levels rise, there’s a potential to require evacuation,” the spokesman said.

Despite years of drought, this month’s heavy rains have brought misery to the region. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, and officials have been scrambling to pluck stranded motorists from cars and surround vulnerable homes and businesses with sandbags.

The floods, which have also affected Victoria to the south and the northeastern state of Queensland, are estimated to have cost A$500 million (US$493 million) in crop losses in New South Wales alone.

The relentless weather claimed its fourth victim on Thursday. A man in his 50s was found in a car that had been swept into a creek in central Queensland state, police said. He was the third motorist in Queensland to die in the recent flooding after rushing water swept their cars away.

Attorney General Robert McClelland declared 45 communities in Queensland and New South Wales natural disaster zones, allowing them access to federal disaster funds.

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