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Thousands evacuated in flooded Australia
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 25, 2012

Fiji declares disaster as flood toll rises to six
Wellington (AFP) Jan 26, 2012 - Fiji declared flood-hit areas of the main island Viti Levu a disaster zone Thursday, as the death toll from the deluge lashing the Pacific nation rose to six.

A family of four, including two children, were killed in a landslide late Wednesday after becoming trapped in their home at a village in the island's western Ba region, the information ministry said.

It said almost 3,500 people had been forced from their homes by the torrential downpour that has continued since the weekend, and a state of natural disaster has been declared in the worst-hit areas of the west.

No further details of the landslide victims were available.

Earlier this week, two farmers were killed in separate incidents as they tried to protect their livestock from rising waters.

The government said roads had been cut and some communities were without power and water supplies, advising people to avoid low-lying areas and take precautions against water-borne illnesses.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced an initial NZ$350,000 ($286,000) for flood-relief efforts and said further aid was being considered.

"New Zealand is coordinating closely with authorities and relief agencies on the ground, as well as with Australia and France," he said.

Thousands of Australians were evacuated Wednesday, with dozens being rescued, as monsoonal rains sparked flash flooding and landslides and a cyclone threatened to form in the Pacific Ocean.

Emergency authorities ordered 4,200 residents of five towns in New South Wales to abandon their homes as a huge storm lashed northeast Australia, causing rivers to break their banks.

"Do not delay your evacuation. Roads will be congested or closed. You could become trapped and need rescue," the NSW State Emergency Service said.

"Remaining in flooded areas is dangerous and may place your life at risk."

The downpour caused flash floods and landslips in neighbouring Queensland overnight, swamping homes and forcing hundreds of roads to close, with 26 emergency rescues as cars were swept into surging waterways.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the downpour, which has flooded homes was a terrifying reminder of last year's devastating floods which killed 35 people and inundated tens of thousands of homes.

"The deluge has caused significant distress from people who experienced last year's devastating floods, with police fielding numerous calls from anxious victims," Bligh told reporters.

"It's an event that is causing a lot of disruption."

A severe weather warning was lifted for Queensland as conditions eased but Bligh said the rain would return late Friday or Saturday, pelting the state with up to 300 millimetres (12 inches) of rain.

"We will feel the full urging of the monsoons, a trough that has been impacting the north," she said.

A "third phase" of weather was expected later next week, she added, with modelling suggesting a cyclone could form.

"There is a possibility of a cyclone forming off the northern parts of the state ... which will bring with it winds and heavy rainfall," she said.

Top-intensity Cyclone Yasi tore across the Queensland coast last February, ripping homes from their stumps and wiping out huge sections of farmland as the state reeled from an earlier flooding emergency.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for northern NSW on Wednesday, forecasting "heavy rain which may lead to flash flooding".

Several local rivers were already breaking their banks, the bureau said, with a "greater than 70 percent chance of major flooding as well as local flash flooding from today onwards."

The exceptional rain, due to a La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, is not expected to rival last year's wild storms.

La Nina is characterised by unusually cool ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific and has been associated with strong rainfall in Asia and Australia.

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Floods displace 5,000 in southern Malawi
Blantyre (AFP) Jan 25, 2012 - About 5,000 people have fled their homes to escape floodwaters in southern Malawi, due to heavy rains from a deadly cyclone that is battering neighbouring Mozambique, authorities said Wednesday.

Army helicopters and motorboats were deployed to the southern district of Nsanje, along the Mozambican border, to rescue marooned villagers.

Nsanje has been "receiving heavy rains since mid-last week which has resulted in two big rivers to break their banks and flood scores of villages," district commissioner Rodney Simwaka told AFP by telephone.

The Shire River, which flows out of Lake Malawi, and the Ruo, which originates from the picturesque Mulanje Mountain, have flooded following heavy rains caused by Cyclone Funso, a powerful Category 4 storm moving slowly through the Mozambican Channel.

Simwaka said about 2,500 villagers fled to hills when the floods hit homes along the rivers.

"Several thousands of people are still marooned in dry patches of land in the flooded villages," he said.

Roads and bridges leading to Nsanje, 175 kilometres (110 miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre, had been washed away, cutting off 30 villages.

He said the helicopter and engine boat operation to rescue the villagers started on Tuesday. Only 99 villagers have been flown to safety and were being housed in schools and churches where the government was distributing food and relief items.

No deaths were reported, but hundreds of hectares of the maize fields were under water and scores of cattle, goats and chickens had been washed away, he added.

The district is prone to floods every year and thousands of villagers defy government orders to move to higher land because they want to grow crops in river banks after the floods, which leave soil rich in silt.


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New floods hit northeastern Australia
Sydney (AFP) Jan 24, 2012
Flooding in northeastern Australia caused thousands of homes to lose power Tuesday and prompted authorities to start evacuations, around a year after deadly floods devastated the region. Up to a dozen homes were evacuated on Brisbane's northern outskirts as Australia's third-largest city was hit by heavy rain, reports said, and authorities urged more people to leave their homes. Almost 1 ... read more

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