Friday, December 31, 2010

Australian floodwaters rise as bushfire threat looms

The Guardian (UK) via Reuters: Floodwaters have risen across a vast area of north-east Australia, affecting 22 towns, forcing 200,000 residents out of their homes and closing an important sugar export port. Flooding has already shut coal mines and the biggest coal export port in Queensland, forcing companies such as Anglo American and Rio Tinto to slow or halt operations.

The worst flooding in about 50 years has been caused by a "La Niña" weather pattern, which cools water in the eastern Pacific and has produced torrential rain in the past two weeks across north-east Australia. In the southern states of Victoria and South Australia, meanwhile, soaring temperatures and tinder dry conditions have sparked bushfires.

Authorities warned of possible "catastrophic" fires if conditions worsened, and holiday travellers were asked to prepare evacuation plans. South Australia rural fire chief Andrew Lawson said: "We're asking people to have a plan, how they're going to get to where they're going ... a plan to get away ... if a bushfire happens to threaten."…

A flooded street in Toowomba, Australia, from 1906

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