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Flood fear prompts Australian evacuations

THOUSANDS of people were evacuated from their homes yesterday in Australia as torrential rains and strong winds pounded the country's east coast, causing severe flooding and forcing the closure of hundreds of schools.

The severe weather has battered the region for the past few days. One man was killed in Queensland state's Surfers Paradise on Wednesday when a sheet of metal crashed through his office window.

The New South Wales state government declared the area a disaster zone and hundreds of schools were closed yesterday. The State Emergency Service ordered the evacuation of 5,000 from the city of Lismore in New South Wales after the city's river threatened to overflow.

An evacuation order had also been issued in Grafton, a town of 9,000 residents that officials expect to be inundated by an overflowing river, State Emergency Services chief Murray Kear said.

The service said it had conducted 15 flood rescues, with no one seriously injured.

The Bureau of Meteorology said an average of 25 centimeters of rain fell in a 39-hour period over the area.

In Queensland, residents spent yesterday mopping up. Many communities were flooded and the region was littered with downed trees.


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