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Dioxin scare shuts 4,700 German farms

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany shut down more than 4,700 farms and related businesses after tests showed animal feed had been contaminated by a cancer-causing chemical.
“4,709 farms and businesses are currently closed,” including 4,468 in the state of Lower Saxony, northwest Germany, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
The farms will be closed until they are found to be clear of contamination by dioxin, a toxic chemical compound that can cause cancer, and will not be allowed to make any deliveries, the ministry added.
State officials banned deliveries to any businesses involved in the production of the fodder at the centre of the scare, said the agriculture ministry in Berlin.
“This strategy explains the high number of closures,” but the bans should be progressively lifted in the coming days once tests had been carried out, the ministry added.
Eight of Germany’s 16 states were affected by Thursday’s closures.
Worst hit after Lower Saxony was the western state of North Rhine/Westphalia where 152 farms were closed; 52 farms in Schleswig-Holstein and 27 in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.
It was in Lower Saxony that 2,500 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids at the centre of the alert were delivered in November and December, where they were used as animal fodder.
The firm Harles und Jentzsch in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein is alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial usage to around 25 animal feed makers.
Nine samples out of the 20 that were analysed showed dioxin levels higher, or much higher than legal, the Schleswig-Holstein ministry said earlier Thursday.
A spokesman at the agriculture ministry in Berlin defended the measures.
“The states are acting as they must in banning as a precaution -- and this in the absence of concrete results from analyses -- all products, including eggs and meat, which had partially contaminated fodder as their origin,” he said.
Food safety was the “absolute priority”, he added.
The agriculture ministry has set up a hotline for worried consumers.
Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner meanwhile called for tighter regulations at the European level to protect the food chain in a phone conversation with European Commissioner for Health John Dalli.
Businesses making fatty acids for fodder should not be able to manufacture materials destined for industrial use on the same site, she had told the commissioner.
The German government said earlier that up to 150,000 tonnes of feed were feared to have been contaminated.
The dioxin scare had already resulted in a halt in production at about 1,200 chicken, turkey and pig farms, most of them in northern Germany.
There are around 375,000 farms in Germany.
A dioxin level that exceeded legal levels in eggs was found in late December.
German authorities on Wednesday informed the EU’s executive Commission and business partners that 136,000 eggs, or nine tonnes of the product, from contaminated German farms had been exported to the Netherlands.
The European Commission said Thursday the hunt for potentially dioxin-tainted eggs had also turned to Britain.
But a statement from Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the tainted eggs were not thought to pose a threat.
“The mixing of the eggs will have diluted the levels of dioxins and they are not thought to be a risk to health,” said the agency.
Dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities, can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer.
US to slash defence spending by $78bn
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Citing “dire” fiscal pressures, Defence Secretary Robert Gates proposed deeper cuts than planned in US military programmes, scaling back ground forces for the first time since the 1990s.
Gates, in a compromise with the White House, said the $78 billion in cuts and other measures would result in a slower pace of growth in defense budgets over the next five years, despite earlier plans to keep spending at a higher rate.
The proposed cuts will require reducing the size of the Army and the Marine Corps in 2015-16, with the Army reducing its force by 27,000 troops and the Marines by 15-20,000, he told a news conference.
The US Army and Marines have not faced reductions since the post-Cold War cuts in defense spending in the 1990s, and the size of the ground force -- unlike the Air Force and Navy -- has expanded since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The decision reflected the shifting political climate in Washington, with the spotlight on the government’s deficit overshadowing a long-running focus on national security after 2001.
The Pentagon chief said he would have preferred to avoid such cuts, “but this country’s dire fiscal situation and the threat it poses to American influence and credibility around the world will only get worse unless the US government gets its finances in order”.
As a major portion of the US budget, “the Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government” to scale back spending, he said.
Some Republican leaders in Congress promptly criticized the proposed budget as a threat to the military’s health, while some budget hawks have argued for much deeper cuts in defense spending.
Gates said the Pentagon needed to steer a middle course without dramatic cuts, but insisted the bureaucracy had to change the way it operated.
“This department simply cannot risk continuing down the same path -- where our investment priorities, bureaucratic habits, and lax attitudes towards costs are increasingly divorced from the real threats of today, the growing perils of tomorrow, and the nation’s grim financial outlook,” he said.
Despite talk of fiscal constraints, the vast American defense budget still far exceeds other countries and comes as European allies face drastic cutbacks to core military programmes.
Gates had hoped to avoid any cuts that directly affected the fighting force but said the reductions in the Army and Marine Corps will not come until 2015 -- when Washington hopes Afghan forces will take over responsibility for their country’s security.
The Army is currently at 569,000 troops, after a temporary increase of an additional 22,000 troops, and the Marine Corps has about 202,000 personnel.
The proposed defence budget for fiscal year 2012 will reach $553 billion, growing at a modest rate of three percent, he said. But future budgets will gradually be scaled back to zero real growth in 2015 and 2016, Gates said.
Gates, mindful of a growing push to rein in the country’s deficit and national debt, has for months signaled plans to find tens of billions in savings in the defense budget with the aim of preserving key military programmes.
Jackson’s doctor draws blame
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Michael Jackson was already dead well before paramedics got to him, and his personal doctor said nothing about having given the star a powerful sedative that killed him, medics said.
Murray is accused of involuntary manslaughter over the icon’s shock death on June 25, 2009. Prosecutors say he administered an overdose of the powerful sedative propofol to help Jackson sleep, and then tried to cover it up.
On the third day of testimony, paramedic Martin Blount said that when he arrived Jackson seemed to have been dead for at least 20 minutes, despite Murray’s claim that he had stopped breathing a minute before they were called.
“It seemed like he’d been down for a little while” as his skin was cold and his eyes fixed and dilated, he told the Los Angeles Superior Court, which began an expected two weeks of pre-trial hearings.
His comments backed up testimony by fellow paramedic Richard Senneff, who estimated that the 50-year-old had stopped breathing from 20 minutes to an hour before the emergency medics arrived, four minutes after a 911 call was made.
Blount said Murray, 57, initially denied having given Jackson any medications, but said he saw the doctor holding a needle, and three bottles of the anesthetic Lidocaine on the floor.
“He scooped them off the floor and put them into a black bag,” Blount said, echoing testimony by Senneff Wednesday that Murray asked him to dispose of an intravenous drip bag, and cleared up other medical equipment himself.
He also said Jackson had a “condom catheter” attached -- a procedure usually used on unconscious patients, such as those undergoing surgery, to allow them to urinate while sedated.
At the start of the hearings, LA deputy district attorney David Walgren said Murray gave Jackson propofol every night for nearly two months to help him sleep, as he prepared for a string of comeback concerts in London.
He listed a string of alleged failings by the doctor on the day Jackson died, including delaying calling 911, not telling paramedics about drugs he had given and not knowing how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Jackson was eventually taken to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:26pm.
The new damning testimony was given by paramedics who rushed to his LA mansion and hospital emergency room doctors, at pre-trial hearings to decide whether personal physician Conrad Murray should be tried for manslaughter.
Two doctors from the UCLA emergency room meanwhile testified that Murray said nothing about having administered propofol when he arrived with Jackson’s already cold body at the hospital.
Vaccine against alcoholism on way
SANTIAGO (AFP) - Chilean researchers said they were developing a vaccine against alcoholism that could be tested on humans starting next year and works by neutralising an enzyme that metabolises alcohol.
The genetic therapy is based on aldehyde dehydrogenase, a group of enzymes that metabolize alcohol and are thus responsible for alcohol tolerance, said Juan Asenjo, who heads a team of researchers at Chile’s Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics and the private lab Recalcine.
About 20 percent of the Asian population lacks this enzyme and thus experience “such a strong reaction that it discourages consumption,” he added.
The vaccine would similarly increase unease, nausea and tachycardia (accelerated heart beat).
“With the vaccine, the desire to consume alcohol will be greatly reduced thanks to these reactions,” Asenjo told Radio Cooperativa. Researchers have already successfully tested the vaccine on rats who were dependent on alcohol, and got them to halve their consumption.
“The idea is to have 90-95 percent reduction of consumption for humans,” Asenjo said.
Bath house bombed
KANDAHAR (AFP) - A suicide bomber killed 17 people and wounded another 21 in assassinating a police commander at a public bath house in a southern Afghan town on the border with Pakistan, the local government said.
A nine-year Taliban insurgency is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, but suicide attacks targeting civilians in public places are relatively rare.
“A suicide bomber blew up explosives strapped to his chest at a public bath in Spin Boldak,” border police official General Abdul Razaq said.
He put the death toll at 13, but the provincial government spokesman later confirmed that at least 17 people had died in the attack.
The Kandahar administration released a statement saying that the bomber had been targeting a “police commander” named “Ramazan”, who died in the attack, but did not immediately release any other details..
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates this week ordered an extra 1,400 Marines to southern Afghanistan in what the Pentagon said would put pressure on the Taliban in order to pre-empt a traditional insurgent offensive in the spring.
Defence officials expressed hope that the extra troops would bolster areas recently cleared between Kandahar city and Helmand province.
Vietnam War ‘secret army’ chief dies
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Former Laotian general Vang Pao, who once commanded a CIA-backed “secret army” of Hmong guerrillas during the Vietnam War, has died in a Californian hospital. He was 81.
“He died today... the family was there,” said a spokeswoman for the Clovis Community Medical Center, some 322km southeast of San Francisco, adding that he had been at the facility since December 26.
A general in the Royal Lao army and member of the Hmong ethnic minority, Vang Pao ran an irregular army in the 1960s and 70s, commanding thousands of fighters in the US-funded covert war against Vietnamese and Lao communist forces.
He fled to the United States in 1975 after communists ousted Laos’ royal rulers, and was credited with helping negotiate the resettlement in America of tens of thousands of fellow Hmong.
Charlie Waters, one of his closest friends, said Vang Pao died after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia, complicated by heart problems.
But he said the former general had been active until the last for the local Hmong community, which numbers some 30,000 to 40,000 in California. Tens of thousands of Hmong also live in the northern state of Minnesota.
“He’s been pushing for so many things for his people... up until the day they put him in the hospital,” Waters said, adding: “He was just tired. He was available for his people around the clock.”
“He was a very loving person. He was like a father to his people, his Hmong people (and) he’ll be remmebered as a great general, a great warrior, a great Hmong soldier.”
Thousands of ethnic Hmong and others are expected to attend his funeral, which is planned to be held in nearby Fresno, according to Waters. For decades Vang Pao remained a revered figure in the Hmong community. Many considered the fervent anti-communist their leader in exile, and he was an active defender of the minority, many of whose members, according to human rights groups, are still persecuted and killed in isolated Laos. But he was also a polarising figure, one who controversially raised money from the Hmong community through a secretive organisation that some critics believed was being used to funnel money into support of a new rebellion against Vientiane authorities.
In 2007 Vang Pao was arrested in California along with eight others on conspiracy charges after authorities allegedly “interrupted a plot to overthrow the government of Laos by force and violence” according to the justice department. The charges were dropped in 2009.
A teenage soldier against the Second World War Japanese troops, he underwent French-run army officer training from age 20 and later fought against communist rebels. In 1964 he became the first Hmong to achieve the rank of general in the Royal Lao army.
The US was then stepping up its undeclared war against Lao and Vietnamese communist forces in the landlocked country, training a proxy army and flying missions in unmarked aircraft of the CIA-run Air America. From the mid-60s, Vang Pao commanded the irregular army of Hmong, other Lao fighters and Thai mercenaries from his mountain headquarters in a campaign that some historians contend was part-financed by the opium trade.


Airport scanners ‘erode rights’

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader said the body scans and enhanced security pat-downs at US airports are eating away at Americans’ freedoms and called the agency that conducts them a “basketcase”.
“The TSA is a basketcase, collectively,” Nader said at the first US conference on controversial new security measures that are being rolled out at airports around the US.
These include X-ray scanners that produce a graphic image of a person’s naked body, genitalia and all, and body searches including a frisk of the private parts of travelers who refuse to go through the scanners.
Some travellers have complained that the scanners are too revealing, while others, including a pilot, have said they felt violated after being frisked by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent.
Passengers and airline crewmembers have told stories about being asked to remove prosthetic breasts or having their urine-collection bag burst during a pat-down, and parents have said their toddlers were invasively searched by TSA agents.
The TSA security strategy was to have a knee-jerk reaction to failed terror attacks, said Nader.
“You have the shoe bomber, we take off our shoes.
“You have the Christmas bomber headed for Detroit who failed, so now we have these new scanner machines,” he said, referring to a young Nigerian who tried unsuccessfully to detonate explosives sewn into his underpants as his US-bound flight was about to land on Christmas Day, 2009.
Next thing American travellers know, they will be subjected to body cavity searches, he said.
“What’s happening is, we are incrementally losing our freedoms,” Nader said.
That view was shared by most of the other speakers at the conference, which was organised by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and had the double-entendre name “The Stripping of Freedom.”
“The TSA wants to use machines to see us naked before we get on an airplane,” said Wes Benedict, head of the Libertarian Party.
“But if you don’t want to be seen naked, you can get patted down like a criminal and felt up instead,” he said, agreeing with Nader that the new security measures “trample on our rights and waste our money.”
Congressman Rush Holt said that making everyone go through the scanners goes against a “central tenet of our society and our government, that we do not regard people with suspicion first”.
Michael Roberts, a US pilot who last year refused to be patted down by the TSA, said the scanners were another example of the government meddling in Americans’ private lives.
He and James Babb, co-founder of a grassroots movement that called for travellers to boycott body scans on the busiest travel day of the year -- the day before Thanksgiving -- called for the TSA to be abolished and for travellers’ security to be put in the hands of the free market.
But amid the voices saying that the new security measures were violating Americans’ constitutional right to privacy and calling for the TSA’s heads, a lone voice came out with a different reason for why the agency should change the way it screens travellers.
Simply put, scanners don’t work, said international security expert Edward Luttwak.
In a test conducted in Europe, German prison guards were instructed to sneak explosives past three different scanners, including the full-body X-ray machine currently causing such a furore in the United States, Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, said.

Major ‘revelations’ on 2G scam likely
NEW DELHI: The Indian government is expected to make some major “revelations” on the 2G spectrum allocation scandal soon, to bring the “truth before the people,” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said.
The announcement would cover the gamut of issues including issuance of licences and allocation of spectrum during 2001-2009, he said, while releasing a new page on the Human Resource Development Ministry website dedicated to non-resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin to mark the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that began on Friday.
His remarks came as a Delhi court on Friday held as ‘maintainable’ a private complaint filed by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy seeking prosecution of former Telecom Minister A Raja in the 2G spectrum case.
“I am of the opinion that complaint as such is maintainable,” Special CBI Judge Pradeep Chaddah said.
Minister Sibal, however, said: “The revelations will tell the people why the telecom policy was changed in 2001, what the Tenth Plan document said, why revenue sharing was allowed, the enormous losses to the government as a result of this, and the extent of financial gains to people.”
The government had already taken corrective measures, which would otherwise have taken several months through the process of a Joint Parliamentary Committee. A CBI probe had been ordered and notices sent to telecom companies, he added.
Taking on the BJP for insisting on a JPC probe, the Minister said the demand was “absurd” and pointed out that the government had given the party several alternatives to end the impasse that resulted in the washout of the winter session of Parliament. “We were ready for a special session of Parliament, debate in the House to get a sense of the members on the JPC, and even letting investigating agencies work with the Public Accounts Committee. But they did not budge. This is no way for a democracy to function,” he said.
“We have no choice but to go to the people and tell them the truth. We must tell the people that the BJP is misleading the people. Instead of ‘white lies’ there will be only truth.”
- The Hindu
Two Britons detained over job scam
MANILA (AFP) - Two British men have been detained in the Philippines and could face long jail sentences for allegedly running a scam offering Filipinos non-existent jobs abroad, legal officials said.
The two took 1.75 million pesos ($40,000) in fees from 12 Filipinos in exchange for getting them work in Britain but failed to deliver, said Kenneth Dasal, legal officer of the Manila suburb where they are being charged.
“They were caught by a police investigator posing as a job-seeker in a ‘sting’ operation,” Dasal said.
Simon John Paice and Nicholas John Vickers are in detention awaiting trial while a third British man is being sought for his alleged involvement in the case, said Dasal.
The two Britons have been charged with “illegal recruitment in large scale”, which has a maximum penalty of life in jail, said Aida Lumugdang, an officer of the court handling the case.
They were arrested early last month and charged in court on December 21, Lumugdang said. However it was not stated how old they are or when they entered the Philippines.
Illegal recruitment refers to cases where unauthorised agencies lure Filipinos, supposedly to help them get jobs abroad, only to cheat them or exploit them.
The issue is a sensitive one in this country, where about nine million people have gone overseas to find better jobs to support their families.
The British embassy in the Philippines said it was aware of the case and was providing the two with consular assistance but declined to give more details.
Belgium mired in political crisis
BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgium’s political crisis deepened when a mediator appointed by the court to end a political crisis that has left Belgium without a government for 207 days threw in the towel.
Johan Vande Lanotte tendered his resignation to King Albert II a day after powerful Flemish separatists said “Neen” -- No -- to his offer to return to the negotiating table to set up a coalition government.
The failed bid, the latest in almost seven months of efforts to bridge the gulf between the country’s Flemish and French-speaking communities, leaves divided Belgium headed into political and economic fog.
“You can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink,” said Vande Lanotte. “There is not sufficient willingness to negotiate.”
“One day, the political leaders will have to take this step in the interests of the country’s prosperity,” he said.
King Albert II, who appointed the mediator following a June 13 general election that failed to produce an outright winner, is to respond Monday.
While the same caretaker cabinet that skilfully presided the European Union through six months of debt crises is keeping the buses and trains running on time, fears are mounting of looming economic strife.
With debt hovering just below the 100 percent mark of GDP, ratings agencies and the nation’s central bank have warned of a potential threat from financial markets if feuding politicians fail to strike a deal any time soon.
The seven political parties -- four from Flanders, three from Wallonia -- slated to form a coalition had been handed a Wednesday deadline to accept or reject Vande Lanotte’s proposal. His 60-page proposal to reform the state -- after five institutional reforms in four decades -- aimed to increase regional autonomy in line with demands from the powerful independence-minded New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).
But the N-VA, which won the top score at the country’s indecisive June elections, said it had “fundamental remarks”, or objections, on the text.
French-speaking Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo, who won a majority in Wallonia in the June poll, said “the situation in unbearable ... we must stop going round in circles.”
“The spectacle we’re giving of ourselves is undignified and irresponsible,” he said.
Di Rupo also said it might be time to open political crisis talks to centre-right liberal parties on both sides of the language divide. “If (the talks) must be broadened out, we are open to that,” he said.
Belgium has been in political crisis on and off since 2007 as nationalist sentiment grows in Flanders.
The N-VA, which represents the once rurally-poor but now wealthier 6.2 million Dutch speakers, complains of footing the national bill for the 4.5 million francophones and wants more devolution and more power over the public purse.
India urges Pakistan to end onion export ban
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India urged Pakistan to allow onion exports after its neighbour cut off trade in the vegetable by land because of spiralling prices at home.
The cost of the humble onion, which provides the pungent foundation for a thousand different curries and other dishes on the subcontinent, has shot up in both countries, leaving their governments grappling for solutions.
Onion prices have more than doubled in Pakistan as the country has exported huge amounts to its neighbour which has been suffering a shortage due to poor harvests. The problem has been exacerbated in Pakistan by a worse-than-normal harvest there, too.
In a bid to staunch soaring prices Islamabad this week stopped exports to India by road and train earlier as domestic consumers complained, the commerce ministry said.
The clampdown was aimed at discouraging ordinary traders from trucking produce to India, where customs duties on onions were eliminated last month and the prices are higher. India has also banned exports.
Reacting to the move, Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna said New Delhi was attempting to reverse the Pakistani decision.
“We are in touch with Pakistan and we are hopeful that we will find a solution to this (ban) and which will ease the problem,” Krishna said.
The ban will almost inevitably be seen by some in India as a deliberate ploy to increase the hardship of consumers who are battling a 20-percent rise in food prices over 12 months.
Some vegetable traders in northern Indian said they had stopped their exports to Pakistan as retaliation.
“We took this decision because when we needed vegetables (onion), Pakistan has simply banned the export of essential items,” Amritsar-based vegetable trader Anil Mehra told the Press Trust of India.
The news agency quoted a customs official in India as saying no trucks carrying vegetables had passed over the border.
Onion prices in India reached 80-85 Indian rupees ($1.75-$1.87) last month and are currently around 70 rupees a kilo, way above the “normal” retail price of 20-25 rupees.
Prices in Islamabad, where food items are generally more expensive than elsewhere, have risen from 40 Pakistani rupees last month to up to 90 rupees a kilo ($0.47 to $1.05).
“The exports triggered a shortage of onions in our domestic market,” a Pakistani commerce ministry spokesman told AFP.
“I can confirm the restriction has been imposed on exports of the commodity through the Wagah border,” he said, in reference to the land crossing between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since 1947.
Malaysia textbook sparks anger among of Indians
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia’s largest Indian party has called for a textbook to be withdrawn from the curriculum over a reference to the caste system, a report said recently, in a case highlighting the country’s strained race relations.
The Malay-language book
“Interlok”, is from this year to become compulsory reading for high school students, but the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) said it contained a chapter which was offensive to the ethnic group.
Written by a national laureate, the book covers the history of integration of Malaysia’s three main races -- Malays, Chinese and Indians -- from the 1900s until independence in 1957.
The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) protested against a chapter linking the community to the caste system, which it said is outdated, and want the government to withdraw the book or remove the passages touching on the system.
“This issue does not affect us anymore and we do not want to be reminded of such things,” MIC president G. Palanivel said, according to The Star newspaper recently.
“We are holding strong to our stance that the sensitive portion touching on the Indian community should be removed from the book,” he said.
The Education Ministry said it will hear complaints from Indian leaders before making a decision on the fate of the book.
“We have not received the (complaint) letter. We will get the professional views on this matter,” Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong said.
“Our intention is to make our people united and live harmoniously,” he said.
Shock as Australians return to flood-shattered homes
ROCKHAMPTON (AFP) - Australians were greeted by scenes of devastation as they picked through their flood-shattered homes, with forecasts of more heavy rain threatening a multi-million dollar clean-up.
More than 300 houses have been completely inundated by the floods caused by the torrential rain which has lashed Queensland for weeks, wiping out crops, slashing mine production and forcing thousands from their homes.
The large town of Rockhampton moved into recovery mode as the massive volume of water -- estimated to cover an area the size of France and Germany combined -- moved towards the sea, while residents of other communities returned home.
“It’s devastation,” said publican Shane Hickey as he surveyed the impact of the one-metre high inundation of his business in Condamine, west of Brisbane. Hickey, allowed back into the town along with other evacuated residents recently, said it looked like a cyclone had hit his Condamine Bell Hotel.
“It’s just flattened everything, all the grass is mud, all the plants have been torn out of the ground, the trees have gone over and are just covered in silt and mud,” he told Australian news agency AAP.
“All the fridges are gone, the freezers, washing machines, all the laundry.
“It smells. You think to yourself the best way to fix this up is to just bulldoze the lot and start again.”
Inland of Rockhampton in Emerald, which suffered 80 percent floods, the clean-up was well underway with residents removing rubbish and sorting out their homes.
But the waters are set to recede slowly from Rockhampton, which is facing another dump of heavy rainfall over the weekend, and residents are not expected to be able to return to their homes for another week.