Bloomberg News

Floods Spread in Australia’s New South Wales State Prompting Evacuations

March 04, 2012

More than 4,000 people have fled or been ordered to leave their homes as floodwaters rise in Australia’s most-populous state, with more rain forecast later this week, according to emergency services.

About 75 percent of New South Wales is flooded or under threat and another weather system is expected to cross the coast north of Sydney as soon as March 7, according to Steve Pearce, deputy commissioner of the NSW State Emergency Service.

“We still can’t discount further evacuations from other towns,” Pearce told Sky News today. Television images showed torrents of muddy water surging through streets, forcing emergency personnel to rescue residents from their homes by boat. Mechanical diggers moved mounds of earth to prevent rivers from bursting their banks and people stacked sandbags to protect their properties from the floodwaters.

Flooding in northern New South Wales last month damaged homes and ruined cotton crops, one year after natural disasters cost the Australian economy A$9 billion ($9.6 billion). About 2,000 people in the Riverina, a farming region about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Sydney, were ordered to evacuate early yesterday and 1,000 others were put on notice as downpours hit the area, according to the SES.

Winter Crops

Winter crop producers need dry weather to allow the ground to firm ahead of the autumn planting period, Luke Mathews, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), wrote in an e-mailed report today. Dairy output in southern New South Wales and central Victoria may be affected in the near-term because waterlogged fields prevent farmers from milking, while horticulture industry, including wine grape growers, may produce less and it will be of lower quality, he said.

The Murrumbidgee River is expected to peak near 10.6 meters tomorrow at Wagga Wagga, a town of more than 40,000 people about 460 kilometers southwest of Sydney, the SES said on its website.

Residents in low lying areas of Gundagai have been ordered to evacuate today after the Murrumbidgee River rose above 10.7 meters at the town, the SES said.

Police found the body of a 43-year-old man yesterday after he and two others were swept away when their vehicle was stuck in flood waters late on March 3 in the state’s Southern Tablelands, according to a statement on the NSW Police Force website. The survivors were found by rescuers downstream soon after the incident.

Flood warnings are also in place in neighboring Victoria state to the south and northeastern Queensland state.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net;

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


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