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Crops, coal and steel inundated by Australia's flooding

By the CNN Wire Staff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fitzroy River is expected to remain above the "major flood" level for another week.
  • At least 10 people have died in flooding since November 30
  • The floodwaters cover an area the size of France and Germany combined

Rockhampton, Australia (CNN) -- Major flooding across eastern Australia is putting a squeeze on the region's farmers, destroying crops and cutting off routes to market.

"Across the state ... agricultural and primary producers in particular are really feeling the impact of the flood waters," CNN's Phil Black reported Thursday. "A lot of agricultural producers have suffered major crop loses -- vegetable producers, fruit growers, as well as grain growers and sugar cane growers."

Those farmers who haven't lost their crops are having trouble getting them to market over washed-out roads, bridges and rail lines. The flooding also has affected the global transport of commodities such as coal and steel out of Queensland.

The Fitzroy River crested at 9.2 meters (about 30 feet), or more than 2 meters (7 feet) over flood stage, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. It's expected to remain above the "major flood" level for another week.

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The forecast calls for isolated rain, which isn't expected to change the situation much.

"Here in Rockhampton, it is residential areas, some small businesses that have very much felt the impact of these rising flood waters," Black reported.

Some authorities have put damage estimates across Australia as high as AUS $2 billion, while Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Friday that the flooding in Queensland will cost "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

The seasonal flooding in the state of Queensland intensified last month after monsoon rains caused rivers to spill over their banks and reach record levels. The floodwaters cover an area the size of France and Germany combined and now stretch into the state of New South Wales.

Images from CNN affiliate Seven Network Australia showed residents traveling down the streets in boats. From the sky, the tops of houses and trees poked out from seas of murky brown water. Snakes whipped about from under the water's surface.

Neil Roberts, Queensland minister for police, corrective services and emergency services, said Wednesday that 1,200 to 1,500 people had to be evacuated in parts of Queensland. Roberts said some residents probably can't return to their homes for at least another week.

He said the recovery could take "many months, and potentially over a year."

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Roberts said the government had an emergency cabinet meeting Wednesday and appointed a major general to lead a recovery task force.

Police said 10 people have died as a result of flooding since November 30 -- many of them swept away by swift waters.

An airport in Rockhampton, a city of about 75,000 people, closed Sunday and was expected to remain closed for weeks, according to Emergency Management Queensland.

At least 200,000 people have been affected by prolonged flooding, police have said.

Journalist Michael Best contributed to this report.

 
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