Australia’s state of Queensland finds itself facing what one official described as flooding of ‘biblical proportions.’ Dozens of towns have been submerged as rivers overran their banks from heavy rains and claimed at least eight lives in the process.
Heavy rains over the past two weeks initially started by Tropical Storm Tasha have inundated the northern Australian state. The short-lived storm made landfall on Christmas Eve and days of rain followed in its wake.
The flooding is the worst the nation has seen in 50 years brought on at least in part by La Nina conditions – cooler than normal Pacific Ocean waters.
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The total area affected by the floods is larger than the size of Germany and France combined. All told an area of 366,000 square miles (1 million kilometers) encompassing 41 of Queensland’s 73 municipalities has been declared disaster areas by the government.
Andrew Fraser, Queensland’s state treasurer, told media, “It is a disaster of biblical proportions.”
Nearly a quarter of a million residents are estimated to be affected by the flooding with tens of thousands evacuated. Entire towns have been evacuated and officials said 22 towns were either entirely flooded or isolated by flood waters. As the waters continue to rise more will certainly follow suit.
Some of the hardest hit areas were in the towns of St George, Surat, Condamine and Theodore. The death toll from the rains and flooding varies by source but has been set as high as eight.
The city of Rockhampton, home to 77,000 residents, was keeping a wary eye on the Fitzroy River as it continued to send water into the city. Large areas of the city are under water and the river will not crest until January 4th. The Fitzroy is one of 10 rivers that are under flood alerts.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology offered little hope for the rain and flood weary region. The service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm warning for the areas of Charleville, Tambo, Springsure, Augathella and Mantuan Downs. It is warned that, “Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, very heavy rainfall, flash flooding and large hailstones in the warning area over the next several hours.”
In a message to Queensland’s governor, Penelope Wensley, Queen Elizabeth II said, “Please extend my sincere sympathies to all the people whose communities and livelihoods have been so badly damaged in this disaster.”
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