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9,000 Aussies ordered to evacuate flood-hit south

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Australians build up a levee to prevent flood waters in the New South Wales town of Charleville on February 4, 2012.

Nearly 9,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes in Australia’s flood-stricken south, where the military has joined emergency services to evacuate the residents.

Days of heavy rain have caused flooding across three Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria this week.

The floods killed at least two people who tried to cross waterways in their cars, inundated hundreds of homes, and caused millions of dollars in damage in the crisis-hit regions.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the military has been deployed to several areas and was ready to help other affected towns if the crisis deepened.

Almost 8,800 people were ordered to evacuate the city of Wagga Wagga and its surrounding areas amid fears that the Murrumbidgee could reach 10.6 meters, just below the limit a levee holding back the swollen river.

The city has experienced several significant floods since the earliest European settlement in the 1840s, and officials said residents had responded well to the latest evacuation order.

Earlier, Mayor Kerry Pascoe said he had inspected the levee and it appeared solid but that in North Wagga Wagga some 180-200 homes were damaged.

Besides Wagga Wagga, officials said the waters might create an ongoing emergency over the next weeks as the waters rushed to communities downstream.

Meanwhile, more than 13,000 people have been asked to leave their homes around New South Wales state with at least 250 properties already flooded and a number of rural communities cut off by the rising waters.

Authorities have been warning residents in the town of Forbes north of Wagga Wagga, where the Lachlan River has created major flooding.

Flooding has also hit rural regions in Victoria and Queensland states.

The National Farmers’ Federation said while it was too early to put a cost on the disaster, cotton crops had been damaged, as well as grain silos, while many livestock had been swept away.


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