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Rains Ease in Australia, As Country Begins Recovery From Floods

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Military planes are flying food and other supplies toward the areas hit hardest by floods in Australia today and police are increasing patrols in evacuated regions amid reports of looting, reports The Associated Press.

According to the AP, floodwaters covering an area the size of France and Germany combined are draining slowly toward the country's northeastern coast. Rivers are overflowing and inundating at least 22 towns and cities in the farming region.

State authorities tell The Associated Press that at least 200,000 people have been affected by the floods and Prime Minister Julia Gillard is extending emergency relief to those affected. This includes low interest loans to famers to being cleaning up and getting their businesses running again, reports the AP.

"This is a major natural disaster, and recovery will take a significant amount of time," Gillard said in a statement.

According to the AP, in Rockhampton, a coastal city of about 75,000 people, waters from the still-swelling Fitzroy River closed the airport and cut the main highway leading to the state capital of Brisbane. Scores of families abandoned their homes for relief centers set up on high ground, reports the AP.

The AP reports that the rains that triggered the flooding are ceasing, and water levels are dropping in some towns. But officials say at least 1,000 people were living in evacuation centers across Queensland, and it may be a month before the floodwaters dry up completely.