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Land turns to sea in flooded Australia

Water over land
Water over land

Lisa Varano, staff writer

January 23, 2011 — Flooded parts of Australia look like a vast inland sea.

Over 100,000 sandbags used so far
Over 100,000 sandbags used so far

Floodwaters are expected to peak at the middle of this week in the state of Victoria, the latest area to be swamped by one Australia's most costly natural disasters in history.

Evacuations continue as the floodwaters keep spreading across a rural area. A 90 km path of flooding is approaching Swan Hill, a town of 10,000 people several hours northwest of Melbourne.

Hundreds of people were forced from homes outside Swan Hill over the weekend, while volunteers piled sandbags around the town itself. About 75 towns have already been flooded in Victoria, inundating 1,770 properties.

In another part of Australia, flooding has been even worse. Three-quarters of the state of Queensland is a disaster zone. Record rains have fallen there since November. The toll is staggering: 30 deaths, 3.1-million people affected, and $3-billion in damage.

Australians try to protect the town of Swan Hill
Australians try to protect the town of Swan Hill

The cost of Victoria's floods has yet to be calculated, but it's clear that it will be huge. “There is no doubt the recent floods will rank as one of the most costly natural disasters in our history,” said the Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan, in an economic update.

“There's no question that the economic impact of these floods will be enormous.”

Wade Colpitts, a Canadian living in Australia, tells The Weather Network that the scale of the floods is disturbing. “It'd be like watching Toronto going underwater,” he says.

With files from The Associated Press

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