BRISBANE, Australia – More than 200,000 people have been affected by relentless flooding in northeast Australia, with the flood zone now stretching over an area bigger than France and Germany combined, officials said today.
Thousands of homes and businesses across Queensland state have been inundated with water after days of pounding rain caused swollen rivers to overflow. The entire population of two towns was forced to evacuate as water swamped their communities, cutting off roads and devastating crops.
Heavy rains and flooding in northeast Australia is common during the southern hemisphere summer, but the scope of the damage from the recent downpours is extremely unusual, Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said.
“This is without a doubt a tragedy on an unprecedented scale,” Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “We now have 22 towns or cities that are either substantially flooded or isolated because the roads have been cut off to them. That represents some 200,000 people spanning an area that’s bigger than the size of France and Germany combined.”
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes this week. In the central Queensland town of Emerald, around 1,000 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours.
The town was facing the prospect of food shortages, power outages and sewage-contaminated floodwaters, county Mayor Peter Maguire said.
Weather across most of the state was drier today, but river levels were still rising in some areas as high waters worked their way toward the ocean. Bligh warned that drenched communities could be stuck under water for more than a week.