Prince William wraps up visit to disaster-stricken areas of Australia, New Zealand

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Associated Press
Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2011; 11:54 AM

KERANG, Australia - Prince William wrapped up a visit to disaster zones in Australia and New Zealand on Monday, flying into flood-stricken Australian towns even as heavy rain pummeled another part of the country.

The second in line to the British throne was welcomed by hundreds of people in Kerang town in Victoria state, one of dozens across Australia that were inundated earlier this year by the country's worst flooding in decades.

Thirty-five people died in the flooding in northern Queensland state before the waters moved south into Victoria.

In a low-key visit, William was ferried around by helicopter to meet and chat with survivors in several towns that were flooded, attend numerous community barbecues and hear from local officials about cleanup and recovery operations.

In Kerang, schoolchildren - some wearing homemade tiaras and waving placards - lined the street outside the sports ground where events were held for the prince. At one point, William made a passable attempt at kicking an Australian Rules Football.

The visit came as another part of Australia suffered flooding on Monday after storms around Sydney dumped more than 8 inches (200 millimeters) of rain in around six hours.

Students were evacuated from their school in the city of Wollongong, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Sydney, after it was partly flooded in the deluge, which also swamped a trailer park and damaged roads in the area, emergency services said.

Police Sgt. John Klepczarek said the body of one man was found near a stormwater drain in the stricken area, and police were investigating whether his death was storm-related.

In the past three days, William has visited towns in Queensland that were battered by a huge cyclone in February. He traveled to Australia from New Zealand, where he participated in commemoration ceremonies for an earthquake last month that devastated the city of Christchurch, killing at least 166 people.

The visit came as anticipation builds around William's wedding next month to Kate Middleton.

Australia, a former British colony, is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II - William's grandmother - as head of state, but is governed completely independently from Britain. While Australia has a strong movement backing full independence in the form of a republic, the queen and most of her heirs remain popular here.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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