Jan 23 2011
Knee-deep water inundated communities in south-east Australia today, splitting one town in two, as swollen rivers carried flood fears downstream and officials urged residents to evacuate.
The state of Victoria is the latest area of Australia afflicted to be hit in the weeks-long flooding crisis that has left 30 people dead, caused once a century floods in many areas and could become the country’s costliest natural disaster.
Horsham, in Victoria state, resembled a lake after the Wimmera river overflowed its banks and bisected the community before starting to recede several hours later. About 500 homes in the city, which has a population of 14,000, were surrounded by water.
Officials sent three emergency alerts to residents in the path of the high water overnight.
“At 5am, they were out on the megaphone just yelling ‘evacuate!’,” West Horsham resident Brett Insall said. But he remained at his home, saying: “I’m not too worried about it. It’s only water.”
The state emergency service incident controller, Stephen Warren, said the water would slowly recede through the day. “We may even be able to get the western highway open late in the day and actually have some access later tonight,” he told reporters.
The Wimmera river towns of Dimboola and Warracknabeal faced inundation over the coming 24 hours, Victoria officials said.
An evacuation warning was issued to residents of Kerang, which faces isolation for at least three days when the Loddon river peaks. Emergency officials said residents unable to cope without electricity, water, sewer and telephone connections should leave their homes.
Floodwaters have left 1,000 households in north-west Victoria without power, and thousands more homes face the threat of cuts as substations and low-lying power lines are submerged.
The energy supplier Powercor was building earth barriers around the substation in Kerang, which is in a floodplain expected to be hit by about 6ft of water.
A day earlier, she said the floods that ravaged Queensland could be the country’s most expensive natural disaster.
Most of the 30 people who died in Queensland were killed a flash flood that hit towns west of the state capital, Brisbane. The state’s flooding affected 30,000 homes and businesses, and left 12 people missing.
The price tag from the floods was $5bn (£3bn) before waters swamped Brisbane last week.
- Australia floods could be costliest disaster ever (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Peaking river splits Australian town in two (msnbc.msn.com)