Huge tract of Australia in 'biggest ever drought'

March 7, 2014
Aerial view shows buildings and vegetation in Queensland town of Tully on February 3, 2011

The Australian state of Queensland is in the grip of its most widespread drought ever, with close to 80 percent of its territory parched after a failed wet season, officials said Friday.

Australia is famous for its droughts and flooding rains, and Queensland was hit by devastating floods in 2010-11 which left much of the state a disaster zone and brought the state capital Brisbane to a standstill.

But the situation has now radically reversed, with 79 percent of the massive northeastern state—all bar a narrow northern coastal zone and a few other pockets—declared in drought.

"Queensland is a big state and there is usually a drought somewhere, but this is the largest area of Queensland that has ever been drought-declared at one time," state agriculture minister John McVeigh said.

Queensland is nearly seven times the size of Britain, with an area of 1.7 million square kilometres (656,000 square miles).

McVeigh said February was normally one of the wettest times of the year, but this time round many shires missed out on rain altogether.

Some of the newly drought-declared areas—prime regions for growing sugar cane—were flood zones just over a year ago.

Cyril Close, a stock agent in the Queensland town of Roma, said farmers were suffering.

"People in their 60s and 70s are looking to wind down now. They used up all their resources trying to keep their cattle alive, waiting for summer rain, but it never came," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"They are just wondering how much further they can go, and do they go?"

Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month unveiled a Aus$320 million assistance (US$290 million) package for drought-hit farmers which included increased access to a concessional loan scheme as well as mental health support.

"If your farm is in dire , you can't sell, you can't borrow, you can't leave but you've got no money and that's why it's right and proper that you should have access to income support," Abbott said of his plan.

Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013, according to official figures, enduring the longest heatwave ever recorded Down Under as well as destructive bushfires.

Explore further: Worst drought ever to hit California could rival the historic 2011 Texas drought

Related Stories

Australian floods help ease the 'Big Dry'

April 4, 2010

For Australian farmers who have struggled to make a living in southern Queensland as their crops died and their dams ran empty during years of drought, recent floods have helped ease the "Big Dry".

Australia approves plan to save vital river system

November 22, 2012

Australia approved an "historic" plan Thursday to save an ailing river system vital to the nation's food bowl by returning the equivalent of five Sydney Harbour's worth of water to the network each year.

Plan for crucial Australian rivers draws anger

November 28, 2011

Farmers Monday slammed the government's draft plan to rescue a crucial river system supplying Australia's food bowl, saying it will destroy communities and put pressure on food prices.

Recommended for you

East Antarctic Ice Sheet has history of instability

December 13, 2017

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet locks away enough water to raise sea level an estimated 53 meters (174 feet), more than any other ice sheet on the planet. It's also thought to be among the most stable, not gaining or losing ...

Hydraulic fracturing negatively impacts infant health

December 13, 2017

From North Dakota to Ohio to Pennsylvania, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has transformed small towns into energy powerhouses. While some see the new energy boom as benefiting the local economy and decreasing ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 08, 2014
It looks like the rightwing-nut deniers are avoiding the comment section, remaining silent, while voting down the article's popularity. Typical tactic of these POS anti-american horse sh*t traders.
1 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2014
and brought the state capital Brisbane to a standstill.

Seriously it didn't bring it to a standstill it was a BIG inconveience BUT the city functioned fine!
5 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2014
and brought the state capital Brisbane to a standstill.

Seriously it didn't bring it to a standstill it was a BIG inconveience BUT the city functioned fine!

No it's not.
5 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2014
and brought the state capital Brisbane to a standstill.

Seriously it didn't bring it to a standstill it was a BIG inconveience BUT the city functioned fine!

What? Functioned fine?? Large parts of it were underwater...
2.7 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2014
Some areas were underwater due to mismagement by local dam operators and inadequate weather warnings.

In the meantime if there's a lack of water due to drought then go build a desalination plant or two. /sarcasm

As for the sugar farmers they can go to hell for peddling crap that causes enormous health problems and dilutes our petrol with inefficient glug.

Oh .. and the same sugar farming families should be made to pay for cleaning up the cane toads, considering they financed the disaster.

* takes meds, feels better, breathe *

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.