Rains, floods threaten royal disaster tour
Brisbane, Australia (AFP) March 11, 2011
Australian towns were cut off and scores of homes deluged by floodwaters Friday, as officials warned that torrential rain could disrupt Prince William's tour of the disaster zone.
Authorities flew sandbags and medical supplies into some isolated communities in far north Queensland state where residents still recovering after being hit by a top-strength cyclone last month are now under water.
But with Britain's Prince William set to tour areas pummelled by Cyclone Yasi next week, officials were nervous that the driving rain, which shows no signs of letting up for several days, could disrupt his plans.
"Clearly (Prince William) will only be going to places where it is safe to do so," said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, warning the flooding could affect the heir to the throne's itinerary during his March 19-21 visit to Australia.
"I doubt he would want to go anywhere where his presence would interfere with any emergency response or recovery work," she told reporters late Thursday.
Bligh said she hoped the prince would be able to travel to several areas of Queensland hit by a series of natural disasters -- including Cyclone Yasi, floods and a deadly flash flood -- and chat informally with victims.
William will spend two-days in flood and cyclone-battered areas of Australia after a trip to New Zealand where he will attend a memorial service to victims of last month's earthquake in Christchurch that killed around 200.
But weather forecasters said the heavy monsoon downpours would continue into next week and that weather systems would keep dumping rain on the areas worst-affected by Cyclone Yasi until next Tuesday.
Hundreds of residents of the coastal area between the cities of Townsville and Cairns who have been living under tarpaulins since their roofs were torn off by Yasi more than a month ago are battling to keep the rain out.
"Emergency personnel are mostly dealing with readjusting tarps on houses that were previously damaged by Cyclone Yasi and evacuating people who need to be," a spokesman for Emergency Management Queensland told AFP on Friday.
Residents were exhausted by the relentless battering they have taken from mother nature.
"I'm very sick of, sick of seeing the rain, the flood waters coming up and down like a yo-yo and it gets to the stage where enough is enough," Pino Giandomenico, mayor of Hinchinbrook Shire, told the AAP news agency.
"But what are you going to do? Just cop it on the chin."
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