Flood Crisis Continues in Australia, 30 Dead
MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia, January 19, 2011 (ENS) - Floodwaters from weeks of rain in Queensland spilled over the state's southern boundary into neighboring New South Wales last week, and now the disastrous floods are inundating dozens of towns and hundreds of ranches in a third state further to the south.
The state of Victoria in Australia's southeast corner is the latest victim of the flood emergency that has lasted since early December, claiming at least 30 lives.
Across Victoria, more than 3,500 people have fled their homes, with 60 towns submerged by the rising waters. Horsham was inundated Tuesday as the Wimmera River burst its banks, flooding about 500 homes in the town of 14,000 people.
Floodwaters are now affecting most of eastern Australia, causing what Prime Minister Julia Gillard is calling "the country's most expensive natural disaster."
In Queensland, floodwaters have receded in some places, but not in others, so the full extent of the damage to infrastructure and buildings is not yet known.
After many visits to flood-affected areas, Prime Minister Gillard said, "For me there's a lot of sorrow, a lot of sorrow, but also a lot of pride seeing how Australians responded and a lot of determination about how we're going to get through this and how we're going to rebuild from it."
Gillard had projected a federal budget surplus in 2012-2013 and today she said that surplus is still on the books, even with the expense of flood recovery.
"We will rebuild Queensland definitely, full stop," the Prime Minister said today. "We will rebuild Queensland and we will make the difficult decisions necessary to bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13. This is not either/or, this is both."
"Communities in Northern New South Wales are feeling the flow-on effects of severe flooding in southeast Queensland," said Gillard. "The flooding in these communities has caused considerable disruption, including the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes."
The Prime Minister is offering assistance in the form of a Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment of $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child to help flood-affected residents of all three states.
The federal government also is offering grants of up to $15,000 for small businesses and primary producers affected by flooding in New South Wales.
"The recent very heavy rain in the Menindee, Wilcannia and White Cliffs area has resulted in inflows to the lakes that could not be planned for, even a week ago," said Harriss.
The wealth of water is good news for parched areas that have been drier than normal for years, but the NSW government has declared some disaster areas and thousands of people have fled their homes.
In Victoria, Premier Ted Baillieu said today, "These are the worst floods ever to hit northern and north-western Victoria. They have caused widespread devastation to local communities and massive long term assistance will be required to help these communities recover and rebound."
Government clean-up grants for flood victims such as businesses, not-for-profit organizations and primary producers will increase to $25,000 from $15,000 and will be made retroactive to include those affected by the floods last September and December, Baillieu said.
Read the rest of the story atEnvironment News Service.