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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’s’

Australia’s Brisbane besieged by major flood crisis

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:06 am

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan 12, 2011 (AFP) – Australia’s third-biggest city Brisbane was besieged Wednesday by once-in-a-century floods that could hit up to 20,000 homes, as fears grew up to 25 people were killed by raging torrents.

Thousands of people took refuge with friends and central districts were eerily quiet as the river city of two million prepared for its worst deluge since 1893, as floods spread across vast areas of Australia’s northeast.

Friends and family members transfer their belongings into a boat from their flooded home after rainwaters the day before inundated the city of Ipswich, some 40 kms southwest of Brisbane on January 12, 2011. AFP

Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman confirmed that the number of homes expected to be hit by waters breaching river systems around the city had risen from 6,500 to 19,700, as he opened more evacuation centres for victims.

“We are bracing for a one-in-a-hundred-year flood,” said state premier Anna Bligh. “We are bracing for a massive amount of water coming into this river system and it will flood thousands of properties.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the number of homes under threat was “mind-boggling”, but urged people in the city, bisected by the winding Brisbane River, to help neighbours deal with what is shaping up as a major emergency.

“If there’s someone in your street you’re worried about, maybe an older Australian that you haven’t seen for a while, maybe give them a knock on the door and make sure they’re okay,” she added.

Brisbane, the cosmopolitan state capital and economic hub, is the latest and biggest victim of a crisis caused by months of rains that have turned three-quarters of Queensland into a disaster zone twice the size of Texas.

Dozens of suburbs and roads are under water with the Brisbane River bursting its banks in some places and expected to swamp the city centre when it peaks on Thursday. Power will be cut to about 100,000 properties as a safety precaution.

Some 900 people spent the night in evacuation centres in nearby Ipswich, upstream of Brisbane, while two entire small towns were evacuated in the neighbouring state of New South Wales.

Some of the inundation is related to flash floods that smashed through towns high in the Great Dividing Range to the city’s west on Monday, leaving at least 10 dead as rescuers search wrecked communities for more bodies.

State premier Bligh said the toll was expected to rise sharply, warning that the number of people missing had been upgraded to 90.

“Police are anticipating or have very, very grave fears for at least 15 more people,” Bligh said. “This is a potentially gruesome day for our rescue workers and a heartbreaking day for families,” she added.

Meanwhile Melbourne, about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) from Brisbane in Australia’s southeast, was on alert for flash-floods following incessant downpours also blamed on the disruptive La Nina weather system.

Source: SGGP

Heavy rains hit Australia’s flood-drenched northeast

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:13 am

 Heavy rains threatened further flooding in Australia’s drenched northeast Thursday as besieged Rockhampton cut supplies to “irresponsible” residents who refused to leave water-bound homes.

Torrential downpours could cause flash-flooding and worsen existing floods, the weather bureau said, as water levels slowly started to recede in regional centre Rockhampton, a town virtually surrounded by a brown inland sea.

Australia’s coal-mining and farming belt near Brisbane is suffering “biblical” floods across an area the size of Texas, after La Nina, a weather system, deluged Queensland state with its wettest year on record.

Emergency personnel look for residents in need of evacuation after the swollen Fitzroy River broke its banks and flooded the city of Rockhampton on January 5, 2011

Waters peaked in Rockhampton at lower levels than feared and slowly started to recede, while downstream other communities braced for the floods. The disaster, described as the state’s worst, has inundated or cut off 40 towns.

Entire towns have been airlifted as the murky tide gushes across Queensland, destroying crops, roads and bridges and sweeping 10 people to their deaths, along with thousands of animals.

The crisis has cost about Aus$1 billion ($1 billion US) in lost production at Queensland’s coking coal mines, which account for half the world’s supply, putting upward inflationary pressure on the shaky global economy.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have evacuated or are trying to salvage homes and belongings, while dealing with the threat of poisonous snakes, crocodiles and disease-carrying mosquitoes as they negotiate the sludge and rain.

Rockhampton’s mayor Brad Carter angrily slammed residents, including those with children, who refused to evacuate and now relied on food and groceries brought by emergency personnel wading through snake-infested waters.

“We have taken a decision, and we make it very clear, that we cannot put emergency services resources at risk bringing in those supplies,” Carter said.

“They have to now respect and understand that because they make that choice… they will not be getting resupply of essential services, goods and grocery items provided by emergency services personnel.”

Acting police superintendent David Peff said that wading into the waters — sometimes up to chest height — was dangerous for his men and backed the mayor’s pleas to isolated residents in the town of 75,000.

“Every time we put police or SES (State Emergency Service) people into that water… my personal concern is people that are helping will end up being bitten by a snake,” Peff told reporters.

Residents of Condamine, which was completely evacuated, were making their way back to the deserted town, while only about 100 of Emerald’s 11,000 inhabitants remained in emergency shelters as of Wednesday night.

Australia’s sodden 2010 — the third wettest year on record — broke a decade-old drought in some areas and brought the unusual sight of waterfalls cascading off Uluru, or Ayers Rock, as torrents raced along parched riverbeds.

Lush, green landscapes in New South Wales state forced film-makers to postpone shooting for “Mad Max 4”, set in a post-apocalypse desert, while an Outback yachting regatta went ahead for the first time in 10 years.

Source: SGGP

Australia’s ‘Dr Death’ surgeon gets 7 years

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Indian-born surgeon dubbed “Doctor Death” was jailed for seven years in Australia on Thursday for the manslaughter of three patients and for injuring another with needless and botched operations.

Jayant Patel, 60, was facing a maximum life sentence after a Supreme Court jury found him guilty of criminal negligence at Queensland’s Bundaberg Base Hospital.

(AFP file) A Portland, Oregon police photo of Jayant Patel

“The community denounces your repeated serious disregard for the welfare of the four patients,” Judge John Byrne told the court.

The seven-year term was less than the 10 years requested by prosecutors but harsher than the suspended sentence urged by Patel’s lawyers. Patel will be eligible for release on parole after three-and-a-half years.

The prosecution had argued Patel was “motivated by ego and suffering from lack of insight” and was criminally negligent in operating on Gerry Kemp, 77, Mervyn Morris, 75, and James Phillips, 46, who all died.

The fourth patient, Ian Vowles, 63, suffered serious injuries when Patel removed his healthy bowel.

“Three lives were lost and Mr. Vowles will suffer for the rest of his life,” Byrne said.

He added that Patel deliberately hid the fact that he had been found guilty of gross negligence in the United States before taking the job at Bundaberg, and was banned from doing the kind of operations he performed in Australia.

“The order for your surgical misadventures in Oregon gave very good reason to reflect before commending surgery to patients in Bundaberg … yet you told no one about the order,” the judge said.

An official inquiry into Queensland state’s health system prompted by Patel’s case linked him to numerous fatalities at Bundaberg hospital, and local politician Rob Messenger said there were at least 87 deaths under his watch.

Source: SGGP

Australia’s Foster’s to push on with wine, beer demerger

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Australia’s Qantas lets passengers delay flights to Thailand

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 at 9:06 am

SYDNEY, May 18, 2010 (AFP) – Australia’s Qantas Airways on Tuesday let passengers delay trips to Thailand or bypass the country without penalty as deadly violence escalates in the capital Bangkok.

The airline made the offer “due to continued civil unrest/political tensions in Thailand”, a statement on its website ( said.

Armed soldiers stand behind barbed wire after they restricted access to an area on the fringes of the anti-government protest site in downtown Bangkok on May 18, 2010. AFP photo

Passengers who have already bought tickets can defer trips in and out of the country, bypass Thailand as a stopover port and even change destinations at no extra charge, Qantas said.

Thirty-eight people have been killed and 279 wounded over the past five days as political clashes turn parts of central Bangkok into a war zone.

Source: SGGP

Robots, space technology run Australia’s mining miracle

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

 The heavy clank of machinery rings out across a seemingly deserted Outback mine site as an invisible satellite signal fires Rio Tinto’s production line into motion.

Massive stackers and reclaimers begin the task of sifting through rust-coloured piles of rich iron ore, readying them for the rail journey hundreds of kilometres from mine to port.

It’s an industrious scene — with hardly a living being in sight.

“People frequently ask whether we have anyone working here at all,” one miner at Rio’s Dampier operations told AFP.

“Due to automation and stuff most people are pretty well tucked away from the heat. There’s not a lot of manual workers.”

A train carrying iron ore is emptied for loading onto bulk carriers at Rio Tinto’s port facilities near Dampier in Western Australia.

Automation has long been a part of the mining industry, but advances in satellite, motion-sensor technology and robotics have made the stuff of science fiction a fact of everyday life.

Machines which scoop the ore, dump it on a conveyor belt and hose it down are now controlled from the air-conditioned comfort of Rio Tinto’s Perth operations centre, 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) away from the arid mine pit.

Hundreds of specially trained operators who once directed machines from on-site offices watch and direct the action from afar using satellite technology, with surveillance cameras feeding into some 440 monitors.

Once fully operational — currently scheduled for June — the operations centre will allow all of Rio’s rail, mine and port systems to be coordinated from one place.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto is one of the world’s biggest mining companies, with aluminium, copper, diamonds, gold and iron ore among its major products.

“Process plants have long been managed from a console — it?s just as if this task is now performed with a much, much longer extension cord,” Rio said in its latest innovations update.

“But never before, on anything like this scale, has the huge number of tasks been accomplished in full view and full knowledge of everyone else involved.”

The operations centre in Perth is central to Rio’s “Mine of the Future” programme, which aims for driverless trucks and trains, and sensor-fitted “smart drills” that can be operated remotely.

Since December 2008 it has been trialling automation technologies at a test site called “A-Pit”, where robotic trucks with artificial intelligence “learn” the layout of the mine and use sensors to sense and avoid obstacles.

Australian government scientists are working closely with the mining industry, drawing inspiration from space exploration to troubleshoot, explains researcher Ian Gipps.

“It sounds crazy but quite a few of the problems in space and in remote mining can be similar,” said Gipps, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“You don’t necessarily want to have people there… so a lot of exploration on planets requires automated and remote operating systems, particularly automated.”

Current research was focusing on the use of robots fixed with radar and light-spectrum technology to detect and gauge the quality of minerals, he added. It could be available in as little as two years.

“We want to be able to put sensors on machines that can look at the (rock) face and say, ‘the ore’s on one half of the face and not the other half of the face and the ore’s of a particular grade’,” Gipps said.

“You can’t just take a sample and send it off to a lab and get it back in 24 hours or 48 hours and say, ‘ok, we want to mine that area’. We want to know that within a couple of seconds of being there,” said Gipps.

The shift to automation is not without its challenges — chief among them securing vast satellite networks against cyber-attacks — but Gipps said it was critical to addressing chronic labour shortages.

“If the industry wants to keep on advancing then it has to make employment more attractive,” he said.

In the cyclone-prone and brutally hot Pilbara, the “A-Pit” trial is due to finish later this year. Its findings will form the basis for an operations-wide rollout of remote and driverless technologies.

Chief executive Tom Albanese hopes to position Rio as the world’s most technologically advanced mining company, describing it as key to the company’s ambitions to boost annual iron ore production above 600 million tonnes.

Rio Tinto is changing the face of mining,” he said at the Mine of the Future’s 2008 launch.

But will humans ever be removed entirely from the equation? Gipps is sceptical.

“A lot of the challenge is getting machines to understand what’s happening around them,” he said. “It’s remarkable how clever a human is in doing that.”

Source: SGGP