Australia floods: 'Inland sea' moves across Victoria

Rural communities are desperately trying to shore up their flood defences to hold back the advancing waters.

Parts of the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria are braced for the approach of a giant lake of floodwater 55 miles (90km) long, as Australia's severe flooding problems continue.

Deputy PM Wayne Swan said the recent floods would rank as one of Australia's most costly natural disasters ever.

More than 30 people have been killed since flooding began last month.

In Queensland, which has witnessed the worst of the flooding, nine people are still missing.

Floods tore through the towns of Toowomba and Grantham.

But record rains have shifted the flood emergency focus from the north-eastern state to Victoria in the south-east, which is experiencing its worst floods since records began 130 years ago.

The Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) has issued evacuation warnings for communities east of the city of Kerang, which remains cut off.

In all, more than 75 towns have been affected, and the SES said up to 10 towns remained in the floodwaters' northern path across flat, wheat-growing country.

In the city of Swan Hill, people have been building makeshift levees to hold back the Murray River, which is expected to carry the bulk of the floodwaters as they run off over the next 10 days.

Sandbags and misery

"There is no doubt the recent floods will rank as one of the most costly natural disasters in our history," said Mr Swan, who is also Australia's treasurer.

The impact of the floods was worse than a series of natural disasters in the 1970s and wildfires in 2009 in which 173 people died, he said in his first economic note of the year.

Map

Further north, in Queensland, residents of the state capital, Brisbane, have again been putting out sandbags as high tides threaten to inflict more misery on low-lying suburbs.

The city is still clearing up after floodwaters two weeks ago reached a peak of 4.46m (14.6ft).

The search for the bodies of flood victims is continuing.

The Australian navy has been trying to clear the Brisbane River of tonnes of debris including cars, parts of buildings and boats, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

The floods are expected to pose a threat for another week, our correspondent says.

Economists estimate that the flooding in Queensland and Victoria will cost at least A$3bn (£1.8bn) in lost coal exports and agricultural production.

Reconstruction could cost an additional A$20bn, the ANZ Bank says.

The Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal has so far raised A$135m.

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