Australia floods larger than France strand 200,000

Residents were stocking up on food or evacuating their homes as rising rivers inundated or isolated 22 towns in the state of Queensland.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured an evacuation centre in the flood-stricken town of Bundaberg today and announced that families whose homes had been flooded or damaged would be eligible for disaster relief payments of USD 1,000 per adult and USD 400 per child.

"My concern is for the people in these very difficult times," Gillard said.

A day earlier, she pledged 1 million Australian dollars (about USD 1 million) in federal aid to match a relief fund already set up by the state government.

Bundaberg resident Sandy Kiddle told Gillard she lost cherished items after floodwaters surged through her house. She said may not be able to return home for a week.

"It was just a sea of water, and I thought the beach would never come to our house," she told Gillard, who gave her a hug.

Officials say half of Queensland's 715,305 square miles (1,852,642 square kilometres) is affected by the relentless flooding, which began last week after days of pounding rain caused swollen rivers to overflow. The flood zone covers an area larger than France and Germany combined and bigger than the state of Texas.

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