AUSTRALIANS PICKING UP THE PIECES / TORNADOES HIT QUEENSLAND


[PHOTO -Central Queensland flood. Photos supplied by Ergon Energy of the damage caused by ex-cyclone Oswald on the Central Queensland region.]

BRISBANE, FEBRUARY 1, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) Australians Picking Up The Pieces

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Military personnel headed to flood-ravaged northeast Australia on Wednesday to help clean up the sludgy aftermath of floods that damaged thousands of homes and businesses and left some communities short of power, food and water.

Floodwaters were receding in most areas, bringing relief to a region that was battered by worse floods just two years ago. But there were concerns about food and water shortages in some communities, thousands were without power and police were desperately hunting for two men who vanished while traveling through floodwaters earlier this week. Four flood-related deaths were confirmed previously.

Around 120 soldiers were en route to the hardest-hit city of Bundaberg in Queensland, 385 kilometers (240 miles) north of Brisbane. The flooding, caused by the remnants of a tropical cyclone, forced around 7,500 Bundaberg residents from their homes, inundated 2,000 houses and 200 businesses with murky water and prompted helicopter evacuations of 1,000 people.

As the cleanup began Wednesday, some residents complained about dwindling food supplies.

``People were almost coming to blows this morning at the local shop fighting over bread rolls,'' said Chris Pasky of Moore Park, just outside Bundaberg. ``We've got a baby in the house we can't feed. We've just been forgotten.''

In Brisbane, residents were warned to conserve water after muddy floodwaters put pressure on the city's water treatment plants. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that stocks of bottled water were ready to be distributed to residents if the reservoirs run dry.

In other areas, officials scrambled to deliver supplies to residents still cut off by the slowly-receding waters.

``We're discovering people who are isolated, without power, without water, and we're going to be getting some long-life milk and bread supplies in through four-wheel drive later today,'' said Pam Parker, mayor of Logan City, south of Brisbane.

In a waterlogged area of Queensland, police were searching for two men, aged 25 and 34, who were traveling separately to work on Sunday near Gatton, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Brisbane, but never arrived. The 25-year-old's car was found submerged in a creek on Tuesday, and police on Wednesday found a car matching the description of the 34-year-old's vehicle. They were working to identify it Wednesday afternoon.

Queensland residents suffered through the worst flooding Australia had seen in decades in late 2010 and early 2011, when floodwaters from heavy rain killed 35 people, damaged or destroyed 30,000 homes and businesses and left Brisbane under water for days.

Australia has been suffering through a summer of weather extremes, with blistering temperatures and dry conditions igniting hundreds of wildfires across the southern half of the country.

Tornadoes Hit Queensland as Rains Deluge Eastern Australia By Ben Sharples - Jan 27, 2013 12:58 AM ET

 

Tornadoes in Australia’s Queensland state felled trees and power lines as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald dumped heavy rain and moved toward New South Wales bringing damaging winds and possible flooding.

The weather system is centered about 345 kilometers (214 miles) north-northwest of Brisbane and projected to accelerate tomorrow into New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, the Bureau of Meteorology said in an advisory. The Australian Defence Force is on standby to assist with the flood effort, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said today.

“Two helicopters have been tasked to assist the effort up in Bundaberg,” Newman said at a televised press conference in the state capital, Brisbane. “The people of Bundaberg are now this afternoon preparing for worse flooding than in 2010-2011.”

Queensland was devastated in February 2011 by Cyclone Yasi, which killed at least 35 people and contributed to floods throughout Australia’s eastern states that cost the nation’s economy A$9 billion ($9.4 billion) in lost output. Earlier this month, the country experienced record temperatures during a heatwave and battled wildfires in southern and eastern states.

Oswald’s flood waters submerged streets in Queensland towns, with television images showing inundated homes and upturned cars. Destructive winds gusting as high as 125 kilometers an hour and further tornadoes are likely for today and may cause damage to homes, the bureau of meteorology said. The Insurance Council of Australia declared a catastrophe for parts of the state.

Western Fires

The storm cut power to about 10,000 customers in the Bargara area near Bundaberg, 385 kilometers north of Brisbane, according to electricity provider Ergon Energy. A further 41,000 homes, including outer suburbs of the capital, are also without power, Energex said in an advisory.

As emergency services combat flooding on the east coast, firefighters are battling blazes in the west of the country. An alert is in place for the town of Gingin, 84 kilometers north of the Western Australian state capital of Perth.

Temperatures in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, reached a record of 45.8 degrees Celsius (114.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Jan. 18 and a national average of 40.33 degrees Celsius was registered on Jan. 7, the hottest day in more than 100 years of records. The nation’s hot, dry climate makes bushfires a major risk in the southern hemisphere’s summer.

The worst fires in the nation’s history, the so-called Black Saturday blazes, killed 173 people as they swept through rural Victoria in February 2009.

Flood Watch

The New South Wales emergency service warned of flooding and damaging winds approaching the north of the state, in an advisory on its website, even as severe thunderstorms from another system hit southeastern and central areas overnight.

“We’ve got every river system from the Queensland border down to the Hunter on a major flood watch,” Steve Pearce, deputy commissioner of the New South Wales State Emergency Service, said in a televised interview. “It’s just a wait-and- see to see how quickly this front moves down into the New South Wales northern areas.”

Moderate to severe damage from Oswald has been experienced in communities from Cairns in Queensland’s north to the New South Wales border, Rob Whelan, chief executive officer of the Insurance Council of Australia, said in an e-mailed statement. Insurers have received several thousand claims and it’s too early to estimate losses, he said.

Cyclone Yasi

Yasi battered towns with winds stronger than Hurricane Katrina when it crossed the coast on Feb. 3, 2011, smashing homes and ripping through banana and sugar crops. The cyclone struck a state already inundated by floodwaters, which swamped about 15,000 properties in Brisbane, smashed roads and shuttered the city center.

Coal prices surged in 2011 as heavy rainfall and flooding from Yasi engulfed mines and crimped production from companies including Rio Tinto Group and Xstrata Plc (XTA), the world’s biggest exporter of the commodity used in power stations.

Thermal coal at the port of Newcastle in New South Wales, a benchmark price for Asia, surged to $138.50 a metric ton in January 2011 after the storm crimped output and shipments. Prices have since declined and were at $91.15 last week, according to data from IHS McCloskey.

A two-day suspension on ship movements at the port of Gladstone, which was put in place because of extreme weather conditions whipped-up by the storm, was lifted today, an advisory from Maritime Safety Queensland said. Coal, alumina and aluminum are exported from the harbor, according to the port authority website.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at bsharples@bloomberg.net;

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