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Towns cut off as rain swamps Australia

FLOODING rivers and heavy rains cut off towns, stopped mining operations and damaged crops in three Australian states yesterday - one week after devastating bushfires swept the country's southeast killing 200 people.

The tropical state of Queensland has been battling major floods since December 2008, with 62 percent of the state underwater, after a series of storms and a tropical cyclone.

The cost of the damage in Queensland is estimated at A$210 million (US$135 million) and the floods are not expected to subside for another month, emergency services in the state said yesterday.

Scientists say climate change will bring not only warmer temperatures to Australia, and as a result more droughts and bushfires, but also more extreme weather such as tropical storms that cause floods.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to come under pressure to introduce a tougher climate policy later this year as a result of the nation's deadliest bushfires and the flooding disasters.

Thousands of cattle are estimated to have perished during the Queensland floods, which have also cut off roads and swamped properties across the state's northern regions.

People in Queensland have been warned to be on the lookout for crocodiles and snakes in floodwaters.

A five-year-old boy was taken by a crocodile earlier this month after he followed his dog into floodwaters at Cape Tribulation.

Australia is the world's third biggest sugar exporter and sugar farmers in Queensland, who produce 95 percent of the crop, are facing substantial losses.

Heavy rain and flooding forced mining giant Rio Tinto to suspend iron ore mining and rail haulage yesterday over a large part of the Pilbara region in Western Australia.

The outback town of Bourke, in drought last week, recorded 232mm of rain in recent days, more than two-thirds its annual rain.

The coastal town of Bellingen was cut off after receiving 323mm in 24 hours. "Both sides of the town are flooded," said the manager of the Diggers Tavern in Bellingen.


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