Workers clean out a flooded hardware store in Bundaberg, near the eastern coast of Australia, on January 1.
Tropical rains pounded the Australian state of Queensland after Christmas, and the floodwaters have worked their way toward the sea, inundating 22 towns and cities, affecting 200,000 people, and shutting down shops, mines, and a major port.
The Australia Bureau of Meteorology warned in mid-December of unusually heavy rains to come, fueled by a strong La Niña pattern of ocean currents this year—the strongest in decades, according to a scientist quoted in New Scientist. These rains fell on ground already saturated from above-normal rainfall during the preceding months.
The floodwaters are now receding in some areas, while in others the water levels are still near their peak.