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What we know today, Tuesday March 8

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Southeast Queensland’s flood death toll has risen to 13 after a man’s body was found late yesterday as the clean-up in the state and further south in New South Wales gains pace.

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Queensland flood toll rises to 13

Southeast Queensland’s flood death toll has risen to 13 after a man’s body was found in the state’s south.

Police found the body, believed to be a 31-year-old man who’s been missing from Warwick for nine days, in a car in floodwaters in the Condamine River on Monday afternoon.

Another man is still missing and feared dead after falling from a boat on the Brisbane River near Breakfast Creek on February 26.

The weather has largely cleared up across much of the southeast on Tuesday after major floods, which have damaged more than 20,000 homes and businesses.

The Queensland state government estimates private insurance claims on homes and businesses will top $936 million and the bill for fixing public infrastructure like roads, bridges, power lines and railways will top $500 million.

The floods are also expected to wipe 0.25 per cent, or $1 billion, off the state’s economic growth in the current quarter.

Meanwhile, clean-up and recovery efforts in northern NSW are being boosted with the arrival of almost 1000 soldiers as the premier says helping the devastated communities get back on their feet is his top priority.

“That is my number-one priority right now,” Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday.

He said there were about 1600 emergency services personnel on the ground in the region, with 900 ADF members arriving on Tuesday, and promised to review how emergencies were dealt with once the clean-up was completed.

“We want the clean-up to be conducted as quickly as possible, so we can get these communities back on their feet,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“The sights there are devastating.”

Perrottet acknowledged people felt let down by emergency services that were overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis, leaving many to be rescued by fellow citizens, while others were left homeless and isolated without essentials like food, water, cash, fuel and communications.

“I’m incredibly sorry,” he said.

Ambulance call-outs should be free: community service groups

South Australian community service leaders have called on the state’s political parties to make ambulance call-outs more affordable.

The St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Michelle Kemp, Louisa DaCosta Trust representative James Hill and SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley say that ambulances should be free, at least for those on low incomes.

In a statement today, the three groups said many people do not call an ambulance when they need one because of the costs, which are just over $1000 plus $6.10 per kilometre travelled.

They said although there are 50 per cent discounts for age pensioners, no other low-income South Australians receive a discount.

“This base rate for emergency ambulance transport is equivalent to 1.3 weeks pay for someone on the minimum wage, and more than two-and-half weeks of JobSeeker payment,” they said in a statement.

“We need a commitment from all parties at this election to address the issue of ambulance affordability and ensure that everyone who needs an ambulance can call one without worrying about cost. Expanding the concessions available on ambulance cover would be a small first step, but ultimately we need a fundamental rethink of ambulance funding and costs. We need ambulances to be free, at least for those on low incomes, if not for all South Australians.”

SA’s COVID-related deaths leap above 200

South Australia has added 23 deaths to its COVID-19 toll along with 1577 new infections.

SA Health says the deaths occurred between December 31 and March 3 and have come to light following the latest release of information from births, deaths and marriages.

All those who died had tested positive for coronavirus, taking the state’s tally since the start of the pandemic to 213.

There are 106 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 15 people in intensive care.

Two people are on ventilators.

Of the hospitalised patients, 63 are fully vaccinated, 17 are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and 26 have an unknown vaccination status.

According to national statistics, 92.3 per cent of eligible South Australians have had two vaccination doses.

Active cases across SA stand at 18,289.

Monday’s case figure was the fourth day in a row of falling infections after they spiked to 2307 on Thursday last week.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state’s case numbers meant it was on track to further ease local virus restrictions later this week.

The state’s COVID Ready Committee will meet before Friday to consider what changes can be made, considering the current rate of hospitalisations.

“Our numbers in hospital are very, very stable and that sets up a situation where we’re very likely to continue to ease restrictions at the end of this week,” the premier said.

“We don’t want to keep any restrictions in place one day longer than we need to.”

Shane Warne’s death ‘due to natural causes’

Shane Warne’s body will be flown back to Australia on Tuesday after Thai police confirmed he died of a suspected heart attack and his family spoke of “a tragedy we will never come to terms with”.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances in the death of the 52-year-old on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on Friday.

Citing autopsy results, Thai Police Lieutenant-General Surachate Hakparn, assistant commissioner-general, told a news conference on Monday that Warne’s death was due to natural causes, with no signs of foul play.

Songyot Chayaninporamet, deputy director of Samui Hospital, told reporters the autopsy report showed Warne died of a “congenital disease”.

“There is no COVID-19 infection and no sign of assault or murder,” Songyot added.

Warne’s body was to be transported to Bangkok on Monday night and flown back to Australia on Tuesday, media reports said.

In a statement on Monday night the Warne family said the night of March 4 was for them the beginning of “a never-ending nightmare”, and the cricket icon’s death was “a tragedy we will never come to terms with”.

“Looking to a future without Shane is inconceivable, hopefully the mountain of happy memories we all have will help us cope with our ongoing grief,” his father and mother Keith and Brigitte said.

Warne’s son Jackson wrote: “To my brother, my best friend, to my Dad, I love you so much. I don’t think anything is ever going to fill the void you have left in my heart.”

Warne’s youngest daughter Summer wrote: “Dad, I miss you so much already. I wish I could’ve hugged you tighter in what I didn’t know were my final moments with you. And your final breaths were only moments away.”

Eldest daughter Brooke wrote: “I am lucky and will forever be so proud to call you my Dad forever. I love you to infinity and back and I will miss you forever.”

Evacuation orders for parts of Sydney as rain continues

Communities living along 1000km of the NSW east coast are in for a drenching and more flooding as thousands of people in Sydney’s south and southwest were ordered to evacuate.

Multiple flood warnings are current for vast swathes of NSW as heavy rain batters the state, where saturated soil and swollen rivers could lead to landslides.

State Emergency Service Assistant Commissioner Sean Kearns said there were 54 evacuation orders in place across the state and 16 evacuation warnings.

The SES received more than 2400 calls for help in the past 24 hours and undertook around 100 flood rescues, mostly in Sydney.

The east coast low that hit the Mid-North coast on Monday is moving south over the Hunter and Greater Sydney and would track into the Illawarra and South Coast on Tuesday.

“We are expecting to see widespread heavy rains today which will lead to river rises,” Kearns told Sydney radio 2GB on Tuesday.

“If we do issue an evacuation order take heed of that advice.”

The SES ordered residents in multiple suburbs in Sydney’s southwest along the Georges River to evacuate overnight – some without warning.

People in Camden were told to leave on Monday night after 80mm of rain fell and the Nepean River flooded.

“If you remain in the area you may be trapped without power, water and other essential services and it may be too dangerous to rescue you,” the SES warned.

The SES later issued evacuation orders for Chipping Norton, Georges Hall, Picnic Point, Pleasure Point and Sandy Point as well as parts of Holsworthy, East Hills, Milperra, Moorebank and Warwick Farm.

Evacuation centres have been set up in Canley Vale and Menai.

People living in parts of Emu Plains, Penrith and Mulgoa in Sydney’s far west were told to prepare to evacuate.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds and heavy rain in Greater Sydney, the Hunter, the Illawarra, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Southern Tablelands and parts of the Mid-North Coast, South West Slopes, Snowy Mountains and the ACT.

Intense rain could lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash-flooding with thunderstorms and six-hourly rainfall totals in excess of 150mm possible.

Damaging wind gusts peaking in excess of 90 km/h are also possible and storms are expected to continue until at least Wednesday.

Russia puts Australia on list of ‘hostile’ countries

The Russian government led by President Vladimir Putin has approved a list of “unfriendly states” that includes all European Union countries, the United States and Australia among others amid the war in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reports.

Apart from countries, the hostile list also includes foreign territories that, according to officials in Moscow, have committed hostile actions against Russia, its companies and citizens.

According to Interfax, the list was signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and is part of the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation issued on March 5 on the temporary procedure for fulfilling obligations with certain foreign creditors.

The list includes the 27 member states of the EU that have approved strong sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Other countries to figure in the list are Australia, Albania, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Micronesia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, South Korea, San Marino, North Macedonia, Singapore, Taiwan, Montenegro, Switzerland, Japan and Ukraine.

Until now, the list only included the US and the Czech Republic.

In practical terms, being on the list simply means that Russian citizens, companies, or the government itself can only pay debts to any individual or company in roubles.

The Russian rouble has been recording big losses for days and on Monday it also fell significantly against the US dollar and the euro.

Ukraine ‘bread factory’ hit as new talks make little progress

Ukrainian officials say a Russian airstrike hit a bread factory in northern Ukraine, killing at least 13 civilians, while talks between Kyiv and Moscow made little progress towards easing the conflict.

The strike on Monday on the factory in Makariv, just west of the capital Kyiv, took place as the number of refugees fleeing across borders from the Russian assault on Ukraine passed 1.7 million, according to United Nations figures.

Russian forces pressed on with their sieges and bombing of Ukrainian cities on the 11th day of the war. In the encircled southern port city of Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of people remained trapped without food and water under regular bombardments.

“They’re bombing the life out of everything that is moving,” Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

Reuters was not able to verify the reported bakery attack but local emergency services said the bodies of at least 13 civilians were recovered from rubble after it was hit.

Five people were rescued of the 30 believed to have been there at the time. Russia denies targeting civilians.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, police said a further 10 people had been killed in the past day, taking the total death toll there from Russian bombardment to 143 since the start of the invasion. It was not possible to verify the toll.

After the third attempt to ease the bloodshed at talks in Belarus, a Ukrainian negotiator said although small progress on agreeing logistics for the evacuation of civilians had been made, things remained largely unchanged.

“As of now, there are no results that significantly improve the situation,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video statement, while Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, told journalists the talks were “not easy”.

“We hope that from tomorrow these corridors will finally work.”

A fourth round of talks would take place very soon, Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky told Russian state television.

Russia had offered Ukrainians escape routes to Russia and Belarus, its close ally, early on Monday after weekend evacuation ceasefire attempts failed. A spokesperson for Zelenskiy said the Russian proposal was “completely immoral”.

The day before, Reuters journalists had witnessed people trying to flee the town of Irpin near Kyiv getting caught in Russian shelling.

On Monday people picked their way over the twisted ruins of a large bridge in Irpin.

Russia calls the campaign it launched on February 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44 million people.

– With AAP and Reuters

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