January 29, 2013 - 11:14 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Massive floods have killed four people and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes across two Australian states on Tuesday, disrupting air and rail travel and coal production, Reuters reported.
A deluge fed by the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald dumped more than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain in some areas of the Queensland and New South Wales states over the past three days, swelling rivers and swamping towns.
The worst-hit areas were around Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Ipswich in the Queensland state, and around the northern New South Wales towns of Grafton and Lismore.
A fleet of 14 helicopters rescued more than 1,000 people across Queensland overnight and rescue efforts continued on Tuesday.
"Across Queensland the wild weather has broken a lot of hearts," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
Among the four people killed was a three-year old boy, who died in hospital after being hit by a falling tree as he and his mother watched floodwaters in parts of Brisbane, Australia's third largest city.
In Bundaberg, one of the worst hit towns, more than 2,000 homes were swamped and 7,500 people evacuated. People clung to rooftops calling on passing boats to rescue them and television footage showed people being winched from floodwaters.
Brisbane residents have been warned to boil all drinking water as the city's main water treatment plant had been shut, unable to cope with the torrent of muddy water flowing down stream and swelling the Brisbane River.
But the floodwaters have peaked much lower than similar floods in 2011, which inundated Brisbane, and cost more than A$6.6 billion ($6.87 billion) to repair. The 2011 floods cut Australia's gross domestic product by 0.5 of a percentage point, cutting coal production in Queensland by A$6 billion and cutting agricultural production by round A$1.9 billion.