The Cairns region, on the north tropical coast of Queensland, forms part of the wettest area in Australia, with mean annual rainfalls of 2,000 to 4,000 mm. During the summer and early autumn months, intense rainfalls associated with cyclones and other tropical weather influences persist for several days, and can produce severe flooding in the Barron, Mulgrave and Russell Rivers and smaller drainage systems. There is often some loss of life and the damage to buildings, transport infrastructure, sugar cane and other agricultural crops can easily exceed $100 million. Very high intensity rainfalls over shorter periods, only a few hours, also present a significant urban flash flood risk, as happened at Townsville City, some 300 km to the south of Cairns, in January 1998. Despite the use of good floodplain management practices in recent decades, the combined risk of severe river floods and urban drainage floods is relatively high when compared with the other more damaging, but less frequent, natural hazards.
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