Rockhampton: It could take a year for Rockhampton to recover from disastrous floods, the Australian town`s mayor said on Thursday, as the waters threatened the neighbouring state of New South Wales.
"I think that this could drag on for 12 months," Mayor Brad Carter said, adding that it would take three weeks before Rockhampton`s airport reopened, even though the floods appeared to have peaked just below the expected level.
"It looks like it`s peaked, it`s plateaued and it`s showing signs of dropping," he told the Nine Network. "We expect the river system to go down very slowly."
Meteorologists warned on Thursday of "heavy rainfall leading to localised flash flooding" elsewhere in Queensland. "This may add to the existing river flood situation," Canberra`s Bureau of Meteorology said in a severe weather warning.
The floods, which cover an area as big as France and Germany and have affected some 200,000 people, are expected to spread into the neighbouring state of New South Wales, Australian Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The state Premier Kristina Keneally and Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan are to visit the inland community of Goodooga, population 300, on Thursday to inspect preparations.
It is likely to the first town in New South Wales to be affected by floodwaters and was expected to be isolated for between two and six weeks, AAP said, without citing a source.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said on Wednesday that the flooding was unprecedented in her state and had now directly affected 40 towns, raising the number from 22 announced previously.
She said waters that have flooded dozens of mines and closed railways and ports would send coal and steel prices soaring, adding that the state produces about half of the world`s coking coal used to make steel.
Queensland Resources Council has said the floods have already cost one billion dollars (one billion US) in delayed coal production, while the state`s resources minister says the industry is losing 100 million dollars a day.
"Seventy-five percent of our mines are currently not operating because of this flood, so that`s a massive impact on the international markets and the international manufacture of steel," Bligh told the Seven network TV station.
"Without doubt, this disaster is without precedent in its size and its scale here in Queensland," she added.
Tonnes of sludge pouring into the sea as a result of the floods threaten the iconic corals of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, scientists have warned.
James Cook University researcher Michelle Devlin said floodwaters carrying debris and pesticides spelt a harmful "cocktail" for the world`s biggest reef, a delicate ecological treasure and a major tourist attraction.
"This is a really massive event," Devlin said on Wednesday. "It has the potential to shift the food web, it has the potential to shift how the reef operates."