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NSW Premier Says 34 Shires Declared Disaster Areas After Rains

Thirty four shires in New South Wales have now been declared natural disaster areas after rains pummeled the state in Australia’s southeast corner, Premier Kristina Keneally said today after touring flood-stricken areas.

Rain has wiped as much as A$500 million ($496 million) off the expected A$3.2 billion value of the winter crop, Keneally said in a separate statement, citing industry and investment NSW estimates. As many as 1800 residents have been evacuate. Another 4000 people have been isolated by floodwaters, the premier’s statement said.

Australia’s east coast is being affected by a La Nina event that’s cooling the Pacific Ocean and increasing rainfall, producing the wettest August-to-October period on record, the Bureau of Meteorology says. Thirteen river systems across NSW have “minor to major” flooding, State Emergency Service Commissioner Murray Kear said today.

“With a projected half-a-billion dollars wiped off the value of crops in New South Wales, it is a sting in the tail for farmers who have endured a decade of drought,” Keneally told reporters in Wagga Wagga, about 452 kilometers (281 miles) south west of Sydney.

The State Emergency Service has responded to 1300 calls for assistance and carried out 66 flood rescues, Commissioner Kear said today. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting heavy rain of as much as 100 millimeters in some areas of the state from Dec. 8 to Dec. 10, he said.

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