20101231 australian flooding  35
Scott Wogandt and his son Mitchell kayak past flooded cars in Bundaberg. Floods triggered by tropical cyclone Tasha have left entire towns under water and cut off many more over an area the size of France and Germany combined. - 


JEREMY HOBSON: In Northeastern Australia this morning military aircraft dropped supplies to towns cut off by floods. 200,000 people have been affected by waters covering an area larger than Texas and Montana combined.

For more, let's bring in Stuart Cohen in Sydney. Hi Stuart.

STUART COHEN: Hello Jeremy. Good morning.

HOBSON: What's going on right now?

COHEN: Well, the remnants tropical cyclone Tasha have been dumping torrential rain on parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Some areas received nearly a foot of rain over a 24-hour period. There was one town that was particularly bad off. They were cut off by the flooding but their water treatment plant was damaged and they had just a few days supply of drinking water so it was very much a real case of water, water everywhere but barely a drop to drink.

HOBSON: Water, water everywhere. What's been the economic impact of all this?

COHEN: Well, the country's farmers, particularly grain farmers, have been hardest hit. Just a year ago many farmers were barely getting by as their fields withered away in a decade long drought. When the rains came, which they did a few months ago with a change of weather patterns, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. A lot of farmers went to the banks borrowing money so they could do some heavier than usual planting. They were expecting a bumper crop. Well, they got it, but unfortunately most of those fields are under water now, and of course there are predictions of rising food prices in the cities as a result.

HOBSON: Now are the farmers, Stuart, the only ones taking a hit from all the flooding?

COHEN: No, not at all. The mining industry, which country's biggest income earner has also been affected. Queensland is also a big source of coal for export to China. Rail lines, access roads and even some mines themselves have been flooded out. All in all, the damage bill from the flooding is going to run into the billions, and that's Australian dollars, which are worth more than the greenback these days. But that's a story for another day.

HOBSON: In deed it is. Stewart Cohen in Sydney. I know you're off to celebrate the New Year in just about an hour from now, so Happy New Year.

COHEN: Thank you very much Jeremy.