Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Town swamped by surging floodwaters

Emergency workers pile sandbags on a bridge over the swollen Loddon River at Kerang (AP)
Lorraine Lucic uses a jug to scoop water that is trickling through the sand bags protecting her house (AP)

A surging river has flooded and isolated the latest community hit in Australia's deadly flood disaster, straining a levee serving as the main protection between the muddy waters and residents' homes.

The flooding in Kerang, in the south-east state of Victoria, follows weeks of massive flooding in north-eastern Queensland that the government says could be the nation's most expensive natural disaster.

Overflowing rivers swamped an area larger than France and Germany combined, shut down much of Queensland's lucrative coal industry and left 30 people dead. Walls of water miles wide are now surging across northern and western Victoria in the wake of record rainfall last week.

And flooding has also hit New South Wales where the deluge appeared to have claimed another life when the body of a three-year-old boy who had been reported missing was found in floodwaters near his family's home in the small community of Marthaguy .

Seventy-two Victoria towns have already been affected by rising waters, 1,770 properties have been flooded and more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes.

Floodwaters in the Kerang region were the highest in more than 100 years, said Kim Healey, a spokeswoman for the State Emergency Service.

Up to 1,500 homes in the town could be inundated if the levee holding back the water from the swollen Lodden River gives way. It has held out so far, but water levels were expected to remain high for several days.

Other communities were at risk of inundation for the next few days as water levels continue to rise in several areas. Residents of Dimboola, a town of about 2,000 in the state's north west, were asked to evacuate today as the Wimmera River that runs through the community surged higher.

"This flood event is still far from over," said Tim Wiebusch, director of operations for the State Emergency Service. "We are likely to see this flood emergency continuing for at least another seven to ten days."

The government has said the Queensland floods could be the country's most expensive yet, but has not yet released estimates of the costs. Some estimates were already at five billion dollars before muddy brown waters swamped the capital Brisbane last week.

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