The UK’s Prince William wound up a successful Australian tour yesterday with a visit to flood-hit parts of Victoria as the state government announced more money to help those worst affected.
In a trip seen as a public relations success, the second-in-line to the British throne turned his attention to people whose homes and farms were flooded in mid-January when the Loddon River broke its banks.
However, the prince missed the opportunity of getting a first-hand feel for what they experienced.
A severe weather warning was issued earlier in the day for western and central Victoria, including a flood watch for the Loddon River, but the rain stayed away for his arrival in Kerang.
The Victoria leg follows a weekend of touring disaster-affected communities in Queensland, which was hit this year by massive floods that swept away entire homes, killing more than 30 people, and then by Cyclone Yasi.
The prince, who marries his fiancee Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, was briefed by local emergency services personnel in Kerang before mingling with locals.
“You’ve obviously done a marvelous job,” he told them, referring to their recovery since the January floods.
Casually dressed in jeans and an open-necked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he was then helicoptered to a nearby dairy farm, where the owners were only able to return last weekend, two months after it was inundated by water.
William ended his day with a traditional Australian barbecue in the tiny Murray River town of Murrabit.
To coincide with his visit, the Victorian government announced an extra A$12 million (US$12 million) package targeting flood support.
“We are standing by these communities and families so they get the help they need to get back on their feet,” Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said.
The prince arrived in the former British colony on Saturday after an emotionally charged two-day visit to New Zealand in which he paid tribute to more than 200 people killed in recent earthquake and coal mine tragedies.
At a fundraiser at the Brisbane Convention Centre on Sunday evening he thanked those who helped in the aftermath of the Queensland disaster.
“As a search and rescue pilot myself, I am full of admiration for their courage and skill. Queenslanders are renowned for their true grit, for their resilience and courage,” he said, according to Sky News.
“In the past two days, I have met many Queenslanders who have been struck by the brutal force of nature at its cruelest,” he said. “On behalf of the Queen, the Prince of Wales and other members of my family, I would like to extend heartfelt condolences to all in Australia who have lost family members and friends in these terrible natural disasters.”
The evening raised about A$145,000 for disaster relief.
While Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard believes Australia should become a republic when Queen Elizabeth II dies or abdicates, the issue has faded from the limelight since Australians voted against such a move in a 1999 referendum.
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