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Posted Fri Dec 31 2010: from Guardian:
Australian floodwaters rise as bushfire threat looms
Flooded area of north-east Australia is bigger than France and Germany, as southern states face tinder dry conditions.. Floodwaters have risen across a vast area of north-east Australia, affecting 22 towns, forcing 200,000 residents out of their homes and closing an important sugar export port. Flooding has already shut coal mines and the biggest coal export port in Queensland, forcing companies such as Anglo American and Rio Tinto to slow or halt operations.... In the southern states of Victoria and South Australia, meanwhile, soaring temperatures and tinder dry conditions have sparked bushfires. Authorities warned of possible "catastrophic" fires if conditions worsened, and holiday travellers were asked to prepare evacuation plans.... Emergency authorities said the flooding was not expected to reach a peak in some areas until Sunday and would not recede for at least a week. Australia has endured its wettest spring on record, according to the national weather bureau, causing six river systems in Queensland to flood. Swollen rivers in New South Wales have also caused flood damage to wheat crops. Possibly as much as half the Australian wheat crop, or about 10m tonnes, has been downgraded to less than milling quality because of rain damage. That has tightened global supplies and sent prices up by about 45 percent this year, the biggest surge since 2007. The floods have also pushed coking coal and thermal prices higher and tight markets are keeping a close eye on further disruptions. Queensland's ports have an annual coal export capacity of 225m tonnes. Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coking coal used for steel-making and accounts for about two-thirds of global trade. It is also the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used for power generation.
[Read more stories about: weather extremes, drought, food crisis]

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'Doc Jim says:
Wet on one side, dry on the other? That's just an engineering challenge!

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