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Gillard Pledges Support for Flood-Hit Town in Disaster Zone

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March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Julia Gillard is pledging support for the Australian town of Wagga Wagga, where flooding forced about 8,000 residents from their homes after the local river peaked at its highest level in 38 years.

The New South Wales town, which has a population of more than 60,000 people, was declared a disaster zone yesterday as the Murrumbidgee River threatened to breach a levee. The waterway rose as high as 10.6 meters (35 feet) overnight, below the forecast 10.9-meter peak, and the fortifications held, according to the New South Wales State Emergency Service.

“As a federal government we’ll keep working with our state counterparts and local communities to support them during this difficult time,” Gillard told reporters today in Wagga Wagga, about 460 kilometers (285 miles) southwest of Sydney. “We’ve always made the decisions necessary to find the resources to support communities in need and we will keep taking that approach.”

About 75 percent of Australia’s most populous state is affected by flooding as rainfall causes rivers to burst their banks, with 12,900 people forced to leave their homes across New South Wales, according to the State Emergency Service. The town of Griffith is expected to be affected, it said.

“The communities of Currawarna, Narrandera, Leeton, Darlington Point, Carathool and Hay are expected to experience major flooding as the flood peak moves along the Murrumbidgee River,” the SES said in a statement issued at 3:30 p.m. local time. Wagga Wagga residents have been allowed to return to their homes, it said.

Television images showed muddy water lapping at the roofs of houses in parts of Wagga Wagga yesterday and farmers rescuing sheep from inundated fields by boat. Flood warnings are also in place in neighboring Victoria state. It was too early to estimate the financial cost of the floods, Gillard said today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at bsharples@bloomberg.net; Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

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

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