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Australian Flooding Seen as Mixed Blessing

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Australian Flooding Seen as Mixed Blessing

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Sweeping floodwaters have forced scores of Australians from their homes and brought substantial damage to property, livestock and crops. But the rains have also been welcomed by drought-weary farmers in an agricultural area of central Queensland.

“When you add the damage to dams, ring tanks, fences, stockyards, houses, roads and bridges, the clean up from these floods will be a mammoth task,” said Brett de Hayr, the head of the Queensland-based agricultural group AgForce.

Despite substantial damages, many see the flooding as being positive—helping to bring the area out of a decade-long drought. Mr. de Hayr called the season’s rain “one of the best starts we have had in a long time,” saying, “it has the hallmarks of a return to the classic wet season.”

The past weeks have brought rain to both Queensland and New South Wales. Victoria also continues to experience regular rainfall. However, climatologists say it will take a long period of consistent precipitation to pull the region out of severe drought.

The deluge in Queensland comes just weeks after the worst flooding in 50 years for the southeastern Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales that occurred earlier in January. Severe thunderstorms poured out 300mm (11.8 inches) of rain in just three hours onto the parched soil, stranding thousands of residents and vacationers, and causing estimated damages of over $22 million ($17.5 million USD).

However, in both of these instances, while any precipitation did ease the drought, it also came with an immediate extra cost for famers who have suffered years of declining production. In some cases in the most recent flooding, $300,000 worth of stock have been reported destroyed; others report damages of $1.5 million to infrastructure and machinery. AgForce’s current estimate for the cost for this round of flooding is nearing $1 billion ($876 million USD).

“Also keeping our enthusiasm on an even keel,” said Mr. de Hayr, “is the knowledge that not everyone [in Queensland] has received rain.” Farmers in South Australia, also experiencing severe drought, have not seen an increase in precipitation.

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