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Australians urged to flee floods
Evacuations ordered in several Victorian towns as they brace for the worst flooding in 200 years.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2011 11:09 GMT
Up to 1,500 homes could be affected in Kerang, Victoria state (Gallo/Getty)

People in more southeastern Australian towns have been asked to flee homes as a surging river threatened their lives.

Up to 1,500 homes in Kerang, in the north of Victoria state, could be affected if the Lodden River rises any further.

“You should ensure you have left your property immediately,'' the state emergency service (SES) said in text message alerts sent about 5:20am [local time] on Wednesday to the town's 2,500 residents.

Australia's weather bureau also issued warnings for areas in southeast and south central Queensland, including Gladstone, the location of one of the state's major coal export terminals.

"Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, very heavy rainfall and flash flooding," the bureau said.

Up to 500 homes were isolated in Victoria as the Wimmera River overflowed its banks, bisecting the city of Horsham on Tuesday before starting to recede in the afternoon.

The massive flooding, which first inundated vast stretches of Queensland state, has already left 30 people dead. The government says the natural disaster may be its costliest ever.

Most expensive disaster

In a sign of some improvements, Queensland's coal mines are now operating at full permanent staffing levels and the state's two largest coal export terminals said shipments were set to increase as coal rail haulage lines and mines return to normal.

The state's emergency service incident controller said the water would slowly recede through the day.

More than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes across Victoria, with 51 towns and 1,500 properties already affected by rising waters.

The flooding in Victoria follows a six-week crisis in Queensland, where floodwaters swallowed an area the size of France and Germany combined, culminating in the swamping last week of Brisbane, Australia's third largest city, and utter devastation of towns to the west.

Experts have linked Australia's downpours to an especially strong La Nina weather pattern bringing cooler water temperatures and exacerbating the traditional tropical cyclone season.

Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister, announced the formation of a business task force on Tuesday to assist with rebuilding devastated infrastructure in Queensland.

She said a day earlier that the floods that ravaged Queensland could be the country's most expensive natural disaster ever.

"We don't even know what the price tag is yet because we can't even know what the full flood damage is. So we will work through this a step at a time," she said.

Source:
Agencies
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