Residents Flee As Levees Breached

In Australasia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

Australia: Many of Kerang’s 3,800 residents are fleeing across the border into New South Wales after one of the levees protecting the town sprung a leak.

Walls of water kilometres wide are flowing across the north and west of Victoria in the wake of record rainfall last week.

Authorities say Kerang’s levees are being severely tested because the water in the Loddon River has risen higher than the level the system was designed to cope with.

At least 84 homes at Warracknabeal also remain under threat, but the State Emergency Service says levees appear to be holding in the Murray River town.

But SES incident controller Wayne Grincais says water is seeping under a 150-metre section of the levee at Kerang and experts are being flown in to assess them.

“We’re unable to guarantee the safety of that levee bank. We do have severe concerns about it,” he said.

“In the early hours of this morning the water levels have actually exceeded what that levee bank is built to cope with.”

People are being advised to leave the town and move to relief centres at Cohuna and Barham before the only road out of Kerang is cut off by floodwater later this morning.

“The floodwater has now crossed over the railway line on the southern end of town,” Mr Grincais said.

“That is now spilling water into the Pyramid Creek system and eventually the road we are using to evacuate people from – that’s the Koondrook Road – will become cut off so we do know eventually it will close. We are just not real sure on timing.”

Kerang resident Adam Cooper, who is at the Cohuna relief centre, says he received a text message to evacuate about 5.00am (AEDT).

“[There were] quite a few on the road as we were leaving, but I think I’m one of the first to get to Cohuna,” he said.

“There’s only a few here at the moment but I expect there will be more coming soon.”

Mr Cooper has prepared his house as best he could.

“If they’re going to go under, it’s going to go under,” he said.

“Some of the bits I didn’t worry about, like the couches and stuff, but most of the electricals [are] up high so you just hope that if it does come in, it doesn’t go too high.

“But there’s not much you can do.”


SES state duty officer John Parker says an evacuation warning was issued late on Tuesday for 84 homes in the Wimmera region town of Warracknabeal, a wheatbelt town of 2,500, as the Yarriambiack Creek rose to unprecedented levels.

“We have 84 properties that will be inundated or that will have water around them,” Mr Parker said.

“This is a one-in-200-year flood, so we have no idea how many of those houses will be flooded above the floorboards.”

Kerang, like Warracknabeal, is in uncharted waters with floods never seen since European settlement, but the news there is better, Mr Parker said.

Work is continuing in Kerang and Horsham to protect two key substations that supply much of western and north-western Victoria and some parts of south-western NSW with power.

At least 16 houses at Horsham in Victoria’s west have been inundated overnight.

The SES says hundreds more properties are surrounded by water.

Anna Larkin from the Horsham Incident Control Centre says people should steer clear of Yarriambiack Creek, even if the water seems calm.

“It’s got extremely dangerous currents under the surface, it’s sort of slowly roiling,” she said.

“Because we’ve had a tragic incident with a child lost in the north of Victoria, we’re extremely worried for the people of Horsham and we ask that they keep children, including teenagers, away from the river.”

Other concerns

The Mallee town of Beulah, on the Yarriambiack Creek, is also a concern for emergency crews in coming days, Mr Parker said.

“We’re also mindful of what impact all this water will have on the Murray River,” he said.

“We’re concentrating on preparation work in smaller communities along the river to keep the water out.”

The Wimmera River is expected to peak in the town of Dimboola, downstream from flood-hit Horsham, home to about 1,800, on Thursday and at Jeparit further north the same day or Friday.

Further south, riverside business operators in Nelson are bracing for floodwaters to make their way down the Glenelg River.

Brett Carson runs a boat hire business and leases its sheds from the Victorian Government in the far south-west town.

He says the sheds along the river flood up to six times a year when big flows coincide with rising tides at the mouth.

Mr Carson says he would be happy to pay to put his business on a floating pontoon, but state law forbids it.

“The boats bang around on the landings, could actually float up on top of them,” he said.

“We’ve got all the gear up and out the way so it doesn’t get damaged and that costs a lot of money in January. January we sort of need to survive.”

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