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Drought-breaking rainfall helps Aussie farmers

Published: Sat, June 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Farmers across drought-stricken areas of Australia's Outback could be forgiven for not knowing what hit them Saturday. Rain.

Meteorologists said up to 1.2 inches fell across much of the parched west of New South Wales state, and there was more on the way.

"It's definitely going to be helpful for farming areas, who've not had this type of rain for a period of at least six months," said Weather Company meteorologist Matthew Pearce.

More than 90 percent of New South Wales is in the grip of what is widely reported to be the worst drought to hit Australian farmers in a century.

The rain arrived in time to allow farmers to sow winter crops.

Pearce said forecasters believe more rain is on the way for the baked landscape in coming days, which is crucial for the survival of winter crops.

John Vagg, who owns a farm in Ivanhoe, about 510 miles west of Sydney, heard the unfamiliar sound of rainfall on his roof most of the night.

"Last night it started raining about 9 p.m., and it's rained right through till about 4:30 a.m., and we've ended up with 35 mills [1.4 inches] here," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"That'd be the best rain that we've had here since Nov. 12, 2000," he added. "It's actually a drought-breaking rain -- it's absolutely a tremendous fall."


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