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'Dramatic' rain warning for flood-soaked Australia

Sri Lanka floods kill seven, leave 750,000 homeless
Colombo (AFP) Jan 9, 2011 - At least seven people, including two children, were killed in mudslides in Sri Lanka where more than 750,000 people have been driven out of their homes by floods, officials said Sunday. A six-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl were killed in separate incidents in the district of Badulla on Sunday, while five others also died in mudslides over the weekend. Heavy rains have caused flooding in the island's centre and east where more than 750,000 people have moved to temporary shelters after their homes were flooded, said N. B. Weragama, operations director at the Disaster Management Centre. He said that 1,500 troops had joined rescue efforts to evacuate marooned villagers. Sri Lanka depends on monsoon rains for irrigation and power generation, but the seasonal downpours frequently cause deaths and damage to property in low-lying areas. The island's two main monsoon seasons run from May to September and December to February.

Mozambique expects worst floods in 10 years
Maputo (AFP) Jan 7, 2011 - Heavy rain in Mozambique in the next two months could cause massive floods comparable to devastating downpours that killed hundreds of people 10 years ago, a disaster management official said Friday. "Above normal rainfall is expected because we have La Nina. It's a probability," said Dulce Chilundo, director of the National Emergency Operation Centre, referring to the phenomenon of extensive cooling across the Pacific Ocean. Mozambique's meteorological institute measured almost 100 millimeters of rain at Maputo international airport on January 5, twice the amount used to classify strong rains. Mozambique's average yearly precipitation is 500 millimeters. "It is a lot like the phenomenon in 2000," Chilundo said. "Then much rain fell from January 30. By February 3 authorities declared floods." At the time 800 people were killed by the worst floods to hit the country in 50 years. Financial damages amounted to 419 million dollars (323 million euros). British consulting firm Maplecroft in 2010 rated Mozambique the second country in the world most vulnerable to natural disasters after Haiti, which was hit by a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake 12 months ago.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 9, 2011
Heavy rains falling on Australia's flooded north-east could have a "dramatic" impact, officials warned Sunday, stretching already swollen rivers and creeks to their limit across the devastated region.

Queensland police commissioner Alistair Dawson said that severe weather lashing the already sodden northeastern state could bring flash flooding to currently dry areas with little warning.

"Waters will rise quickly -- you may not be aware of that rise," Dawson told reporters. "Those places which have gone under before, especially on the road system, could well flood again within an hour."

Emergency chief Warren Bridson said the unprecedented deluge -- which has hit an area larger than France and Germany combined, paralysing the key agricultural and coal-mining region -- meant the rain's impact was unpredictable.

"The ground is so waterlogged, the catchments so primed, the rivers so full, the creeks are all flooding, and it will mean something more dramatic than it has in the past," Bridson said.

"That 200 millimetres (eight inches) of rain... could mean the difference between a minor flood and a major flood," he added.

The wild weather even hit Queensland's premier Anna Bligh, with lightning striking her airplane as she toured flood-stricken areas, reportedly scorching the wings and startling those on board with a loud bang.

"Premier's plane was just struck by lightning. We landed safely. But slightly shaken. Plane will need to be repaired," television reporter Sylvia Jeffreys, who was tailing Bligh on Sunday, wrote on the Twitter microblogging site.

Bligh's office confirmed the plane had been hit after takeoff in central Queensland and would be "out of action for a little while", but stressed that no-one had been hurt.

Several towns remained severely inundated, including a number still bracing for floodwaters to peak, and the Bureau of Meteorology said strong storms could bring more misery for already swamped towns.

"Some heavy falls are likely, which may lead to localised flash flooding and/or worsen existing river flooding," the bureau said.

The town of Maryborough was expecting the raging Mary River to peak twice on Sunday due to the rains, while nearby Gympie prepared for a major flood to threaten homes and businesses.

River levels at the major flood centres of Rockhampton and St George remained just below their peaks, while huge clean-up operations had begun in a number of other towns, assisted by New Zealand emergency workers.

Police said they had recovered the body of a 19-year-old woman who went missing while swimming with friends in a swollen creek at Barambah late Saturday. At least a dozen lives have been lost in the floods.

Thousands of homes and businesses remained without power after the floods and over 5,000 lightning strikes, electricity supplier Energex said in a statement, with crews working overnight to try to reconnect electrical cables.

But the waters are not expected to recede significantly for at least another week, preventing hundreds of evacuated residents from returning home and severing the major highway to Cairns, tourism gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

The "biblical" deluge has wiped out crops and brought dozens of coal mines to a standstill, driving up world prices and threatening the key steelmaking industry. The disaster is expected to shave at least Aus$6 billion ($6 billion) from Australia's economy.

Australians have donated more than $30 million to a public appeal for flood victims, AAP reported, including over $10 million raised in a telethon by the commercial Nine television network on Sunday night.

Tennis officials pledged to donate $10 to the relief fund for every ace served during Australia's summer tournaments, including the Sydney and Brisbane Internationals and the Australian Open. The ATP and WTA expect to raise more than $40,000.

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Veteran pilot astounded by Australian floods
Rockhampton, Australia (AFP) Jan 7, 2011
If Rockhampton is suffering its worst ever floods, Australian rescue chief John Fisher ought to know - flying overhead in his helicopter, the veteran pilot has seen them all. "A lot of people around this place have seen floods, but not of this dimension before," said Fisher, one eye on the storm clouds gathering overhead. "The extent of water out there in the Fitzroy (river), it's astou ... read more

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