MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Once-in-a-century flooding in parts of the eastern Australian state of Queensland looks set to worsen as the nation's weather bureau on Saturday (Feb 2) warned of more heavy rain in the area. This comes as the country endured its hottest month on record in January, with sweltering conditions expected to persist through April, according to the weather bureau.
Some residents have already been evacuated after days of monsoon rains lashed the region around the coastal city of Townsville, in the north of the state, a spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Adam Blazak, a forecaster with the bureau, did not say how many people had been evacuated, but added that some areas had reached "major" flood levels.
"Normally a monsoonal burst might last a few days, but this one's been going on over a week now and is set to continue for a few more days as well," he said.
Between 150mm and 200mm of rain is expected across Townsville on Saturday - equal to about a month's average rainfall.
Local authorities issued a number of flood warnings on Saturday morning and told residents to avoid using roads and consider moving to higher ground if conditions worsen.
North Queensland has significant zinc reserves as well as major deposits of silver, lead, copper and iron ore, with Townsville being a major processing centre for the region's base metals.
In stark contrast, wildfires in the southern island state of Tasmania have burnt through more than 187,000ha of land, fire officials said.
The Tasmanian Fire Service said in a statement on Friday that nearly 600 personnel were working to contain the fires, some of which have been burning for weeks and have destroyed homes.
The statement added that while the last few days have seen favourable conditions for battling the blazes, expected hot and dry weather on Sunday could see bushfires escalate again.
"A number of fires are still volatile and dangerous and fire behaviour can change with little warning," Jeff Harper, the state's Fire Controller, said on Friday.
The heatwave in the country, which saw temperatures above 40 deg C for several days straight in some areas, was mainly due to a high pressure system off the south-east coast that blocked cooler air from coming in, the Bureau of Meteorology said. The scorching weather triggered power outages in some areas and sent electricity prices soaring.