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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Heavy snow in southern Australia
Australian children play after rare snowfall
It was the first time some children had ever seen snow
A sudden cold snap has brought heavy snow to parts of southern Australia for the first time in decades.

Snow fell on beaches and rural areas in Victoria, as well as in the state capital Melbourne, which received its heaviest falls since 1951.

There were falls on farms recovering from drought in New South Wales, on the national parliament in Canberra and in the island state of Tasmania.

The cold front could reach as far north as the tropical state of Queensland.

But forecasters said it was unlikely to snow anywhere on Thursday except for on mountain ranges in southern states.

The conditions were caused by cold air drifting north from Antarctica.

"It was quite a severe front, it strengthened as it came up through Hobart and Victoria," meteorologist Philip King said.

The last time snow was recorded in Melbourne was in 1986, but Wednesday's falls were said to be the strongest for 50 years.

"It's likely shaping up to be the biggest event since 1951," said Scott Williams, a forecaster in Victoria.

"It's right on the beach level."

Snowed in

Highways and schools were closed in rural parts of the state, in the south-eastern corner of Australia.

Snow blankets Australian town
It is the said to be the heaviest snow in some parts for decades
At one school in the state's south, about 120 students who could not be picked up were forced to stay overnight.

Roads were also closed in parts of southern and western New South Wales.

In the town of Orange, in the state's central west, snow fell at noon as the temperature reached just 0.5C.

The snowfall in Tasmania's capital Hobart was the first in several years.

Poor conditions on the state's western coast left some tourists stranded in the area for the night.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the freak Australian snowfall



SEE ALSO:
East Australia hit by flooding
30 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia wilts in its Big Dry
09 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Freak weather in Australia
18 Jan 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
29 Jun 05 |  Country profiles


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