Thousands of people across Australia’s southeast have been asked to evacuate their homes, including some in a western suburb of Melbourne, after two days of incessant rains triggered flash flooding and fast-moving waters burst river banks.
Large parts of Victoria state, southern New South Wales and the northern regions of the island state of Tasmania were pounded by an intense weather system with some taking more than a month’s worth of rain since late Wednesday, officials said yesterday.
“Our river systems ... are reaching major flood levels at various times over today, through the weekend and through next week,” Victoria emergency services chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch told reporters.
Many rivers in Victoria, including the Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s west and the Goulburn further north, reached major flood levels, prompting the night-time evacuation of residents.
The Goulburn River at Seymour, about 100km (62 miles) north of Melbourne, has peaked above the record 7.64m (25’) reached in May 1974, data showed.
More than 200 flood rescues were conducted by emergency crews.
Upstream in Shepparton, rising flood waters are expected to surpass the 1974 peak and threaten over 4,000 properties.
“In terms of property damage, road, public infrastructure and the sheer volume of water, this is going to set new records,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at a news conference yesterday.
He said that 500 homes in Victoria had been “inundated”, while a further 500 properties were surrounded by floods and cut off from emergency services.
“That number will definitely grow,” he said.
Andrews said a decision would be made today about reopening the state’s purpose-built coronavirus (Covid-19) quarantine facility, closed last week after Australia scrapped isolation rules, to shelter flood-impacted residents.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the federal government stood ready to provide assistance to the flood-stricken states.
“There are already ADF (Australian Defence Force) personnel on the ground in Victoria ... this is a difficult time, my heart goes out to those communities affected at this time,” local media quoted him as saying.
In Tasmania, the flooding crisis intensified with fresh evacuation orders yesterday, while hundreds of residents in southern New South Wales spent the night in evacuation centres.
Rains had eased by afternoon yesterday, but the weather bureau has warned of another potential wild weather system next week.
OZ UNDER WATER: Emergency workers patrol a flooded area yesterday as they evacuate residents in the Maribyrnong suburb of Melbourne.