Victorians Beg For Rain To Stop

In Australasia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

Heavy rain in Victoria is expected to ease today but large parts of the state are still struggling to cope with the extreme wet weather.

Lachlan Quick from the State Emergency Service (SES) says volunteers are braced for another potentially busy weekend.

“In conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology, we’re going to be keeping a pretty close eye on the northern half of Victoria over the coming weekend,” he said.

“We’ve probably got flood warning for at least half a dozen rivers and looks as though we’re likely to receive a series of thunderstorms moving through the northern half of the state.

“But it’s important to know it won’t be on the same level as we saw last week.”

Mr Quick says it is still extremely wet along the Murray River in the north-west of Victoria and any more rain there will hamper flood recovery efforts.

“We still have a lot of areas of Victoria that are actually heavily affected by floodwaters,” he said.

“Mildura and the Irymple area and Red Cliffs, I think Red Cliffs actually received its annual rainfall over last weekend. So any extra rainfall there is obviously going to put further strain on any of the systems they have up there.

“Also the area between Kerang and Swan Hill, which is actually been heavily effected now for probably over a fortnight will continue to be for probably another fortnight.

“And we’re going to see isolations, certainly for a number of rural properties and lots of farms up there for some weeks and we’re probably going to be planning for more flood events before all this is done.”

‘Full-blown disaster’

Murray Valley Wine Growers chief executive Mark McKenzie says any extra rain is not welcome.

“We are in extremely steamy conditions. There are some hundreds of hectares of vineyards still physically underwater and in some cases up to a meter of water. We have thousands of hectares of vineyard that are totally sodden,” he said.

“Even if those people were capable of getting onto the ground they’re not able to spray fungicides so we’ve got a situation where some of the varieties are getting seriously, seriously rotted and those crops are going off in front of grower’s eyes.

“So it’s a full-blown disaster for a significant number of growers in the region at the moment.”

He says up to 50 per cent of wine grape crops could be lost, worth between $40 and $50 million.

Growers are now appealing to the Federal Government for exceptional circumstances funding.

“It is a very significant problem which is the reason why we’ve approached the Federal Government to extend exceptional circumstances funding to Murray Valley Wine Growers,” Mr McKenzie said.

He says the exceptional circumstances previously pertained to drought.

“And in fact the drought declaration is still in place here and finishes on March 31. What we’ve asked the Minister to consider is, as a matter of urgency, extending those provisions for a year to March 31, 2012,” he said.

This week, farmers in Koo Wee Rup, south-east of Melbourne, were also flooded.

Wayne Tymensen, a potato grower there, says he could lose up to 80 per cent of his crop.

“Expecting to lose I would say at least a third of our crop and could be anything up to 80 per cent but at least a third will be lost,” he said.

Locals say the flooding was made worse by construction work on the desalination pipeline nearby and last night residents held a meeting to discuss potential legal action to secure compensation.

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