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Premier: Australia flooding will 'whack' economy

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Floods impact dozens of Australian towns
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Residents had been urged to evacuate Kerang as the levee is compromised
  • Levees may hold in Kerang, premier says
  • Forecasters say more flooding is possible in days to come

(CNN) -- Continued flooding in southern Australia and other parts of the country will cause a signifigant "whack" to the nation's economy, Victoria State Premier Ted Baillieu said Wednesday.

The month-long flooding has recently spread to Victoria, the southern Australian state that Baillieu oversees, inundating homes and devastating thousands of acres of crops.

At least 21 people have been killed and countless others have been left homeless.

While still trying to keep an eye on rising rivers and help those who have had to be evacuated, Baillieu said he is also thinking about the country's economy.

"It is going to take some time. There is going to be a whack on our economy," said Baillieu. "And it will be that effect right across Australia from Queensland in the north to Victoria in the south."

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Australia
  • Floods

Baillieu said he has announced a $7 million dollar relief fund and other funds that will be used to help those that were affected.

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Residents of the rural town of Kerang were told to quickly evacuate their homes Wednesday morning as it became clear the levee protecting the town had failed in several places, according to Victoria State Emergency Services.

"You should ensure you have left your property immediately," the agency said in an alert.

Baillieu said it appeared that the levees would hold in Kerang, but other nearby towns were still in peril.

Rains could taper off in Victoria Wednesday but there still was a threat for flooding in some areas, sad CNN International Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado said.

On Tuesday, search and rescue divers found the body of an 8-year-old boy who fell into the water near a river the day before, Victoria police said.

Authorities were still preparing a coroner's report and had not officially linked his death to floods. But earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard mentioned the boy's disappearance as she briefed reporters on the country's flooding crisis.

"We know many communities are anxiously waiting as floodwaters rise, and many townships across Victoria have already been impacted by floodwaters," she said. "We also know that a small boy is missing, and so these are very difficult times in Victoria."

Gillard said she spoke with victims at a shelter in the state Monday -- many of whom had been evacuated from their homes and did not know what they would find when they return.

"Even in those circumstances, when I met with those Victorians, very many of them said to me that their thoughts are actually with the people of Queensland," she said.

Floods in that northeastern Australian state have killed at least 20 people, police said.

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