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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Crocodile fear in Australia flood
Flood victims in Katherine, north Australia
Heavy monsoon rain has swollen the Katherine River
Heavy flooding in the north Australian town of Katherine has led to a state of emergency and sparked fears of crocodile attacks.

Water has reached the rooftops of about a quarter of the town, home to about 10,000 people. About 600 had to take refuge in two schools.

Rangers fear crocodiles may have moved into the town.

One of three boys rescued after clinging to a tree was treated for lacerations from a crocodile bite.

Harpoon

Northern Territory police minister Paul Henderson said the state of emergency would be in place for at least two days to aid evacuations.

The height of the Katherine River has reached 19 metres (62 feet) following days of monsoon rain.

"We don't know what we are going to face when the river does back down," Mr Henderson said.

In addition to the 600 evacuated in the town, another 200 had to be rescued by boat from the nearby community of Jilkminggan.

Katherine is about 300km (185 miles) south of Darwin.

Local rangers said the floodwaters could have allowed crocodiles to reach the town.

Parks and Wildlife ranger Patrick Carmody told the Associated Press news agency: "[They] are always a concern. We know that they are here in the normal time, so it's quite a distinct possibility."

He said he would harpoon or shoot crocodiles found in the town.

Both freshwater and the more dangerous saltwater varieties could be present.

A freshwater crocodile was thought to be behind the attack on the boy.

He was bitten as townspeople rescued the boys using boats with shovels as oars.

Emergency official Kate Vanderlaan said: "We've been very lucky that there have been no injuries or deaths."

Weather officials forecast fine weather for Katherine but say rains further east could add to river levels.


SEE ALSO:
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In pictures: Australian cyclone
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Australian shares ignore cyclone
20 Mar 06 |  Business
Cyclone Clare hits NW Australia
10 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cyclone weakens over Queensland
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