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Floods Spread in New South Wales After Most Rain in 38 Years

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March 8 (Bloomberg) -- Floodwaters spread in New South Wales, cutting the town of Forbes in three, as Australia’s most populous state was hit by the most rain in 38 years last week.

Evacuation orders are in place in Griffith, a town of about 25,000 people 613 kilometers (381 miles) west of Sydney and in Forbes, a town of 7,000 people, the New South Wales State Emergency Service said. Flooding has swamped agricultural land and submerged city streets, with television images showing water lapping at the front doors of residential homes.

La Nina weather conditions, which typically bring higher-than-normal rainfall, are affecting Australia’s southeast with about 12,900 people forced to leave their homes and 75 percent of New South Wales inundated by flooding. Rainfalls averaged 123.9 millimeters (4.9 inches) last week, matching the record reached in 1974, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Flood warnings are also in place in neighboring Victoria state.

“Australia is in the throes of two consecutive La Nina events, which have contributed to heavy rainfall and flooding affecting much of eastern Australia,” Aaron Coutts-Smith, New South Wales climate manager for the Bureau of Meteorology, said in a statement on its website yesterday. “It is very rare to have such persistent, record-breaking rainfall over such large areas of New South Wales and Victoria.”

Airlines, Cotton Crop

Natural disaster declarations have been issued for 39 local councils because of the flooding, New South Wales Minister for Police and Emergency Services Michael Gallacher said in a statement today. Nathalia, a town of about 1,400 people in northern Victoria, was told to evacuate on concerns a levee may not be able to hold back floodwaters, according to a Victoria State Emergency Service Statement.

Qantas Airways Ltd. and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., the nation’s largest carriers, resumed Sydney services after thunderstorms and high winds caused earlier diversions. Emergency services issued an evacuation notice warning of a potential failure today at the Jerrara Dam, near Kiama, south of Sydney.

Rabobank International cut its forecast for Australian cotton production 7 percent as a result of the floods. Output may be 4.25 million bales to 4.52 million bales in 2011-2012, from 4.57 million bales predicted last month, the bank said today in a report. A crop of that size would still be a record.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at bsharples@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net

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