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Australia flood crisis set to last days
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Feb 4, 2012

Thousands of people were stranded by floodwaters in eastern Australia on Saturday as the surging deluge poured into hundreds of homes and rescuers searched for a woman swept away by the torrent.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard ordered eight military helicopters to help in search, evacuation and resupply missions in Queensland state, where days of heavy rainfall have prompted hundreds of evacuations and dozens of rescues.

And in neighbouring New South Wales, emergency officials said 16,550 people were stranded, with the worst affected areas around Moree in the state's north where floodwaters are expected to remain at their peak for several days.

In the inland Queensland town of Charleville fears a temporary levee would collapse as the Warrego River swelled, flooding the whole town, appeared to have abated but authorities remain on high alert.

"Right now the levee is holding and on all current forecasts it's likely to keep doing that, but there's not very much room for error," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters in a visit to the town.

"We have a 24-hour watch on the levee to make sure we are ready if anything happens."

Bligh, who just over a year ago was dealing with epic floods that swamped the state, sweeping away entire hamlets and flooding thousands of homes, said Charleville was suffering its third flood in as many years.

"That's too many, and there's a lot of heartache here today," she said.

"I've spoken to people who are very close to tears."

In the town of Roma to the east, where more than 200 homes had been flooded, police were continuing their search for a woman missing since Friday after her vehicle was swept off the side of a road.

"A boy was rescued from the car and a woman got out of the vehicle but rescuers could not keep hold of her," police said in a statement. "The woman was swept away in fast flowing flood waters."

As the flooding eased in Roma and nearby Mitchell, authorities said their focus would switch south to the town of St George downstream as it prepared for major flooding as the waters moved south.

Maranoa Mayor Robert Loughnan said while it was relief that floodwaters were receding in parts, the damage to towns such as Mitchell and Roma, which have suffered floods three years in a row, would be "gobsmacking".

"It's a massive flood," he told the ABC. "We talk about the 2010 flood being the big one in Roma and of course last year's was just as damaging.

"This third one is just amazing in its scope and I guess the true scale will become clearer as the waters recede in the next few days."

In New South Wales, some residents were returning to their homes in Moree to view the damage caused as the Mehi River steadily fell, but communities remained isolated by the floodwaters.

The extent of the damage is not yet known but the State Emergency Service said some 300 homes and businesses were inundated.

The SES has carried out 18 flood rescues since Friday, including airlifting a group of people trapped on the roof of a building as snakes swam in the water beneath them.

SES assistant commissioner Andrew Edwards said while the rain was easing, the amount of flooding in the region and to the north meant that "we can expect these floods to be going on for months" in some pockets.

Australia suffered epic floods late 2010 and in the January 2011 which swamped a huge area of Queensland, inundating thousands of homes and businesses, sweeping away small villages and leaving more than 30 people dead.

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Thousands stranded by Australian floods
Sydney (AFP) Feb 3, 2012 - More than 10,000 Australians were Friday stranded by flooding in the country's east, with thousands ordered to leave their homes or businesses and the military called in to airlift supplies.

The New South Wales State Emergency Service said about 10,500 people were thought to be isolated by the waters that have rushed across the state's north and southeast Queensland after days of constant rain.

More than 2,000 people have been ordered to evacuate buildings in the New South Wales town of Moree, which is preparing for its second flood in a matter of months.

"This one's going to be worse," Moree mayor Katrina Humphries told national broadcaster ABC.

"People who got a bit of water last time know to be prepared to get a lot more water this time."

A Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft is moving humanitarian supplies to Moree, as locals sandbagged buildings against the rising Mehi and Gwydir rivers, which are expected to hit levels not seen in close to 40 years.

"It's a huge logistical operation with a major flood," SES Deputy Commissioner Steve Pearce told the Seven Network.

"There have been some circumstances where we've had to use one if not all of our 18 helicopters to airlift people out of some isolated areas.

"Fortunately most people abided by those evacuation orders."

Further north in Queensland state, some 15 homes have reportedly been flooded after the Maranoa river swelled overnight while scores of people spent the night in evacuation centres.

The floods come just over a year after massive floods deluged much of Queensland and northern New South Wales, swamping mines and farmland, wiping out entire hamlets and bringing the city of Brisbane to a watery standstill.

Humphries said while Moree was well prepared, there was no telling when the downpour would end.

"Mother Nature has her way and she'll stop crying when it suits her," she said.


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UN makes new appeal for Philippine flood victims
Manila (AFP) Feb 3, 2012
The United Nations made an urgent appeal on Friday for millions of dollars in extra aid to help more than 300,000 people in the Philippines who were displaced by devastating floods late last year. The UN "flash appeal" was increased to $39 million, up from $28 million requested immediately after Tropical Storm Washi washed away whole villages on th southern island of Mindanao on December 16. ... read more

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