Brisbane spared as deadly flood runs out of puff

The disaster would have a bigger impact on the Australian economy than Hurricane Katrina did on the US economy.

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2011, 11:20 AM IST

Sydney: The residents of Australia`s third-biggest city on Thursday woke up to the good news that the Brisbane River had peaked below the forecast and they had been spared even more flood damage.

The river reached 4.6 metres, well short of the 5.45 metres that touched off the catastrophic flooding of 1974.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said he now expected around 12,000 houses and 2,500 businesses to be completely flooded and 14,700 houses and 2,500 businesses with partial flood damage.

"We all now have to rally together to help these people clean up, the ones that have suffered impacts," Newman said.

Bureau of Meteorology hydrologist Jeff Perkins warned that floodwaters would recede slowly in the Queensland state capital.

"What tends to happen is that it steadies off," Perkins said. "Once we see it steady, we`ll be confident it`s a peak."

Computer modeling based on a projected peak of 5.5 metres had shown floodwaters wrecking 19,700 homes and 3,500 businesses and emergency accommodation being needed for between 10,000 and 18,000 people.

Queensland`s month-long flooding disaster has seen successive towns hit by engorged rivers racing through the northeastern state in their way to emptying in the Pacific Ocean.

Two-thirds of Queensland - an area bigger than France and Germany combined - is flooded, industry is at a standstill and agriculture beset by lost harvests.

The repair bill has been put at 5 billion Australian dollars (USD 4.9 billion) and lost production at 9 billion Australian dollars.

"I don`t think there`s any doubt that this is going to be a big blow to the economy," Andrew Fraser, Finance Minister in the Queensland state government, said. "It`s not just the reconstruction task, but key industries like mining and agriculture around the state are going to take a big hit."

Matthew Johnson, an economist at investment bank UBS, said the disaster would have a bigger impact on the Australian economy than Hurricane Katrina did on the US economy, with output shaved by 1 full percentage point in the first quarter of the year.

"This is a very grim situation, and Queensland is going to need us to stand shoulder to shoulder with Queenslanders over months and months and months of recovery," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

IANS