Death penalty

Death penalty

29 March 2009

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Australia — Australia has endured its fair share of natural disasters and scientists warn things are likely to get worse, with drier conditions, more days of extreme temperatures and the possibility of more severe cyclones, droughts and floods.

According to Emergency Management Australia, the greatest death toll from any weather event was in 1899, when more than 400 people died during Cyclone Mahina in far north Queensland.

Cyclones have killed 1868 people in Australia. One of the most destructive was Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974. More than 70 people died and 47,000 were left homeless as the city was almost flattened.

Severe storms have killed 880 people all up, and affected more than 11 million. One storm alone, which hit Townsville in 1934, killed 99 people.

Floods have claimed 868 lives and affected 622,000. The toll from the Maitland-Hunter Valley flood of 1955 was 50 dead, 300 injured and 15,000 left homeless.

Until recently, the total toll from bushfires had been 642 dead, 9946 injured and 1.3 million affected but the raging fires in Victoria at the beginning of February tragically took 210 lives and affected thousands more.

Other major bushfires in Australia’s history include the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983, which killed 75 people in Victoria and South Australia, the Black Friday fires in 1939 that killed 71 and the Tasmanian bushfires of 1967, which claimed 62 lives.

In terms of dollars, severe storms have cost $4.4 billion, drought $3 billion, cyclones $2.1 billion, floods $1.6 billion and bushfires $1.6 billion (not including the recent Victorian fires).

DRY OLD LAND From March to November 2002, Australia experienced its worst rainfall in 50 years and many areas recorded their highest-ever temperatures. In eastern Australia, rainfall only recovered from its pre-drought levels last year in many areas. The drought forced more than 10,000 farmers off the land because their livelihood had quite literally dried up. The Murray-Darling basin, which grows 40 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetables, was especially badly hit.

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