Oprah Appeals for Aussie Flood Aid

Melbourne. US talk show icon Oprah Winfrey on Friday urged Australians to dig into their pockets to help victims of floods sweeping across eastern Australia, as officials warned the deluge could worsen next week.

“I was sorry to arrive in this country and hear about all the devastation happening with the floods,” she told more than 8,000 fans who had gathered to welcome her to Melbourne.

“But I know that you’re open hearted, big hearted, giving people and will look inside yourself and where you can give back, and where you can help and where you can be generous with victims of the floods, you will do that.”

The rising waters spawned by torrential rain have left four people dead and cost millions of dollars in crop losses and could worsen in some places, emergency officials cautioned.

Some 30 regions have been declared natural disaster areas in New South Wales and more than 300 people have been isolated by the flood waters, but further storms are forecast for the nation’s most populous state.

“The conditions are easing right now and over the weekend, but the flooding will potentially increase next week,” a state emergency services spokesman told AFP.

“We are now monitoring very closely the Macquarie River, the Namoi river and the Murrumbidgee. If their levels rise, there’s a potential to require evacuation.”

The floods, which have also affected Victoria to the south and the northeastern state of Queensland are estimated to have caused 500 million dollars (493 million US) in crop losses in New South Wales alone.

Three people in Queensland and one woman in New South Wales have died in flood-related incidents since last week, prompting emergency services to urge people not to drive through the floods.

In Victoria, a major flood warning has been issued for two river regions, while Rockhampton, on the north Queensland coast, was bracing for possible floods early next week.

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