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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 14:30 GMT
Australia floods strand thousands
Some small towns were deluged as riverbanks burst

Thousands of people remain stranded by some of the worst flooding eastern Australia has seen in 20 years.

Parts of the country's most populous state, New South Wales, have been cut off by heavy rain and have been declared natural disaster zones.

There are similar problems further north in Queensland, which has also been battered by wild conditions.

The floods are easing now but officials have warned that many communities could be isolated for several days.

Food drops

Thunderstorms since late last week have dumped huge amounts of rain on Australia's east coast. Many rivers have been unable to cope and their banks have burst.

map

Roads have been turned into lakes and bridges have been washed away.

Entire towns in northern New South Wales have been cut off, while rising flood waters have forced hundreds of residents to leave their homes.

In some areas, food and other essential supplies for trapped residents have been brought in by helicopter.

"There are some 3,000 people who remain isolated by flood waters," New South Wales State Emergency Service spokesman Phil Campbell told the French news agency AFP.

Some people in isolated areas could remain cut off for as long as a week, he said.

About 700 people attending a music festival on an island near the town of Tenterfield in the north-east of the state were stranded after a bridge washed out.

"The people have been isolated for three days and will remain isolated for the rest of today and possibly into tomorrow as well until road access can be restored," Mr Campbell said.

Long drought

Others parts of the country had also been suffering from the weather.

File image of drought at Lake Eucumbene in Old Adaminaby, Australia
Australia has been hit in 2007 by the most severe drought on record

Heavy downpours have affected Queensland, triggering flash floods in the south-east of the state.

Many coastal areas have been affected by the wild weather and beaches have been closed during the busy holiday period.

In the Northern Territory, the city of Darwin is recovering after being pounded by Cyclone Helen over the weekend. Trees were uprooted and officials are busy restoring power and water supplies.

The bad weather follows months of drought in Australia.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says that although rain is desperately needed, to receive so much at once is - to say the least - unfortunate.

Experts have associated the inclement conditions in the eastern states with the La Nina weather pattern.

More summer rain is anticipated but climatologists believe it is far too early to declare Australia's drought to finally be over.

They say that the continent's long dry spell has built up massive rainfall deficits that will take a lot more than one reasonable wet season to fix.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Aerial images of the flood damage



SEE ALSO
Three dead in Australia bushfires
31 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia braced for extreme weather
27 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia farmers feel drought strain
18 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Heavy rains hit parched Australia
18 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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