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Vic towns to be cut off as Murray breaks banks

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Communities in Victoria’s north are on high alert with the swollen Murray River expected to break its banks in coming days.

Evacuation warnings are in place for Echuca and the smaller towns of Barmah and Lower Moira, with the Murray likely to start peaking on Wednesday.

There are concerns river levels could exceed the 94.77 metres recorded during the 1993 floods.

Echuca residents have spent the past few days building a makeshift, 2.5-kilometre flood levee from sandbags to protect thousands of homes and businesses.

However, the wall has divided the town in two, leaving properties and people on the wrong side susceptible to being inundated.

Julie and Martin Golledge say they are devastated they and their house is at risk.

“We are stranded, we can’t even get out” Mr Golledge told Nine’s Today program.

“You work hard all your life, you buy a nice house to retire into then the council say ‘You’re not worth saving’. It’s just hard.”

There were also other flood warnings for towns along the Loddon, Campaspe and Goulburn rivers on Wednesday.

Overnight there was major flooding at Appin South on the Loddon River and at Rochester on the Campaspe River, with residents told to move to higher ground.

Major flooding is expected later on Wednesday from the Loddon River at Kerang, with the water forecast to peak about the January 2011 level.

A sandbag levee is expected to keep the majority of the town dry, but it could be cut off for up to a week.

Floodwaters are starting to recede in the hard-hit towns of Rochester and Shepparton. But Premier Daniel Andrews warned Victoria’s flooding risk was far from over.

“We are going to see more rain,” he said on Wednesday.

“We’ve still got many thousands of people whose … homes are full of water. We have others who can’t get back. It’s a very challenging time.”

Up to 400 Australian Defence Force personnel are being deployed across Victoria to help with sandbagging, rescues and deliveries of supplies to flooded communities.

The state government on Tuesday announced a $5.5 million food relief package to ensure affected families don’t go hungry.

Free kindergarten is also available for families in flooded communities, while senior students sitting their VCE exams will also receive additional support.

With the state’s river systems already reaching their peaks, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned more rain and thunderstorms are on the way.

There could be 5-15 millimetres of rain for much of the state on Friday, while the north-east could be drenched with up to 50 millimetres.

Residents are advised to heed flood warnings and evacuate or move to higher ground if necessary.

They should also stockpile medication and other emergency supplies in case they were cut off, and avoid driving through floodwaters, Mr Andrews said.

Heavy rain forecast for NSW

NSW floods to last months

North of the Murray, there is no end in sight for the rain and floods hitting NSW, with saturated catchments copping a further soaking, as authorities warn flooding will continue for months.

After a brief reprieve from the rain at the weekend, widespread rain returned on Wednesday.

“This is not good news for our already flood-affected areas,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Dean Narramore said.

Rain and thunderstorms are expected over parts of NSW and Victoria, where there is already major flooding.

“As we move into Wednesday, we’ll see that system move further eastwards, bringing widespread rain and storms,” he said on Tuesday.

Thursday threatens “quite severe” thunderstorms through eastern Queensland and NSW, set to continue on Friday.

A low-pressure system will weaken but be followed by more rain at the weekend.

The downpours could cause renewed flooding along rivers in parts of the NSW north-west, central-west and south-west inland catchments, which are already inundated from months of persistent rain.

Residents in East Moama, near the Victorian border, have been told to evacuate by 1pm on Wednesday as the Murray River continues to rise.

Already 300 people in and near Moama have already been told to evacuate this week, and thousands are on stand-by. Floods in the area are predicted to eclipse its second worst on record in 1993.

The SES has distributed tens of thousands of sandbags and set up evacuation centres.

Deputy State Emergency Services Commissioner Ken Murphy said weary volunteers had been dealing with floods since February and everyone needed to prepare for a long, wet summer.

“What we need to be mindful of is this is a very, very long event and broadly across all of NSW, these floods will continue for a number of months,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.

NSW Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said the wet conditions have tested the resolve of flood-weary communities.

“This is what living through a third consecutive La Nina event looks like,” she said.

“Our grounds are saturated and we are continuing to see rain and more rain”.

Major flood warnings remain for eight NSW rivers, including the Murrumbidgee and Murray.

Closer to the coast in the Hunter region, the weather bureau warns of a renewed flood threat on some rivers as rain continues. Wollombi Brook is likely to flood later in the week.

The bureau is also keeping a close eye on the Lower Hunter River and Colo River north-west of Sydney.

-AAP



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