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Australia – Flood threat spreads but Wagga levee holds

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Photo: Wagga Wagga,NSW – ABC News Video.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the city of Griffith as the southern New South Wales flood emergency spreads, but thousands more in central Wagga Wagga have been cleared to return home.

About 600 people from low-lying parts of Griffith and outlying villages are anxiously waiting at an evacuation centre set up in the town’s Police and Community Youth Club (PCYC) amid fears their homes could go under later today.

Keith Favell from the SES has told AM it is hard to predict how the flooding in Griffith will unfold.

“It’s a bit of an unprecedented flood. We don’t often see water like this coming into Griffith because it’s not under a defined river system,” he said.

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“Overland flooding is a little bit more difficult to predict exactly when it’s going to arrive, because we don’t have gauge locations and a history of flow times.

“There’s overland flow coming down what’s known as Main Drain J, which flows down from the north of Griffith, comes down past the western sides of the town, before swinging underneath.

“As well as that we’ve got water flowing along from the east in the Mirool Creek system.”

The region’s SES controller, James McTavish, says supplies will need to be brought in from Hay if Griffith becomes isolated.

“There is a very significant flood emergency there. There is the potential for that flood emergency in Griffith to continue for a couple of weeks and a large number of people have been evacuated in the last 24 hours,” he said.

“We’re hopeful though that the preparations that we’re putting in place, today in particular, will protect more of Griffith and surrounds.”

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About 9,000 residents from central Wagga Wagga were given the all clear to return to their homes and businesses shortly before 10:00am (AEDT), after the city’s levee held through the flood’s peak yesterday.

The levee was checked by council engineers this morning before the announcement.

“That massive force, that massive pressure is putting our levee under stress,” Mr McTavish told Wagga residents last night.

“Before we can let you go home we have to have a fair dinkum assessment of the levee’s capability to withstand the flood.”

The Murrumbidgee River has now fallen to just over 10 metres, after peaking lower than expected at 10.56 metres yesterday afternoon.

Owen McDonald was among scores of locals who spent a second night at Wagga Wagga High School.

“I woke up this morning with a sense of anticipation that we’ll go home today,” he said.

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But there is a longer wait ahead for residents whose homes have been inundated outside the levee, in the north and east of Wagga.

It is expected they will have to spend at least another night in emergency accommodation.

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Long-time resident Kerry Hull is among those waiting.

“I’ve never seen a flood like this in North Wagga ever in my lifetime,” he said.

“From what I can gather the neighbours, most of them were gone within three or four hours and they just shut their front doors and walked out.

“That’s left them devastated what’s happened, in that two metres of water’s come through their houses.”

Murrumbidgee River peaks
1844 – 10.97m
1852 – 10.67m
1853 – 10.9m
1867 – 10.67m
1974 – 10.74m
Source: Wagga Wagga City Council

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Hundreds of residents have refused to evacuate at Forbes in the state’s central west, where the Lachlan River is still rising.

Among them is caravan park owner Lyn Henley.

“It’s right up to the office here and it’s everywhere and running fairly quickly. Yea, it’s awful,” she said.

The Lachlan River is expected to peak tonight at 10.6 metres.

SES spokesman Phil Lalor says crews have been told a number of reasons why people are not leaving.

“They haven’t been flooded before, they haven’t left previously, they’re happy to stay,” he said.

“The floods will do different things each time. No one flood is exactly the same as the previous one.

“The people that are in their house and initially if they have indicated that they want to stay, there is no reason why they can’t reflect on that and certainly we encourage people to reassess the situation.”

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Updated March 07, 2012 12:45:28

First posted March 07, 2012 09:06:57

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Victorian town braces for flood peak

Updated March 07, 2012 12:00:22

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Floodwaters are lapping at the bottom of a temporary levee in the northern Victoria town of Nathalia, ahead of an expected flood peak later tonight.

Evacuation notices have been issued for 17 properties not protected by the levees and remaining residents have been advised to leave by 5:00pm (AEDT).

The Broken Creek is now lapping against the town’s fortifications and the high water mark is expected to exceed records set in the 1974 and 1993 floods by 50 to 100 millimetres.

The weather bureau has predicted the creek will peak between 3.1 and 3.15 metres late tonight or early tomorrow.

A small leak on the south side of a flood levee has now been sealed.

Crews are monitoring the barrier as water rises by about two or three centimetres an hour.

But SES state commander Mark Cattell is confident the levees will not be breeched.

“At the moment the aluminium levee that they’ve put up, it’s only risen about 1 foot up the outside so 30cm on outside of the levee at the moment,” he said.

“The levee’s holding up quite well at the moment, they’re expecting to still have about a 30 – 40 centimetre freeboard.”

Floodwaters have started creeping over footpaths, along walkways and alongside the creek.

Roads are being swamped on the eastern side of town and several homes in the area have been isolated by floodwaters.

Mr Cattell says the situation may be further complicated by high winds.

“There is a severe weather warning current for high winds and that’s certainly going to be a bit of a worry up in that same sort of area,” he said.

“Where the ground is so wet with the wind blowing we could see some trees down over the road. So we’re asking residents and drivers to be aware of that.”

Access to the town from the north on the Murray Valley Highway has been cut, but the roads to the south and west of the town remain open.

Premier Ted Bailieu is warning it will be some time before damage can be assessed.

“There are still communities under threat, the recovery stage commences when all the threats have subsided,” he said.

He says it may take a week or more for floodwaters to subside

Several towns remain partially cut off, including Katamatite, Numurkah and Walwa.

Meanwhile, the weather bureau is predicting more heavy rain in eastern Victoria over the next three days.

An east coast low pressure system is forming off the Gippsland coast and heavy rain is expected tomorrow.

Don Whitford from the weather bureau says it has already started raining in the far east and the region will also be hit by strong winds.

“Gabo Island has had 12 millimetres in the last, since 9:00am yesterday morning and Mt Wellington’s had nearly 22mm,” he said.

“Mt Moornappa’s had almost 15 and Gelantipy 14, so there has been some heavy falls already in eastern parts.”

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Insurance help

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The Federal Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, says it is likely that insurance premiums will rise as a result of flooding across the region.

But he says the Government has negotiated with the insurance Industry to help clear up the definition of a flood.

“People, if they have to make a claim, they won’t have to go through protracted dispute and legal action just to get their insurance policies honoured,” he said.

Topics: floods, disasters-and-accidents, nathalia-3638, numurkah-3636, katamatite-3649, shepparton-3630, wodonga-3690, vic, australia

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First posted March 07, 2012 06:42:51

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Floodwaters peak below levee in Wagga

Updated March 07, 2012 09:05:40

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Photo:George Roberts, reporter – ABC News Video,Wagga Wagga,NSW.

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Flood levels around the New South Wales city of Wagga Wagga have begun falling, but residents have been told they still cannot go home.

Floodwaters peaked at 10.6 metres yesterday, below the town’s levee, and have begun receding.

But thousands of residents have been told they will not be able to return to their homes until engineers can assess the city’s levee.

“That massive force [of the Murrumbidgee], that massive pressure is putting our levee under stress,” the SES’s James McTavish said.

“Before we can let you go home we have to have a fair dinkum assessment of the levee’s capability to withstand the flood.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will visit the town today.

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Ben Shepherd from the SES says authorities will keep an eye on the downstream communities of Narrandera, Darlington Point and Carrathool as the water moves west from Wagga Wagga.

“We just need people to remain vigilant, I know that the initial threat to the Wagga township appears to have passed, but we are going to see all of this water move to the west yet,” he said.

“So there are going to be further towns and villages come under threat over the coming days. So remain vigilant, keep yourself up to date.”

Alastair Mills lives on a farm east of Wagga Wagga, and says he is glad the SES made the order to evacuate.

“Despite the hardship of an evacuation it is much wiser to get out and the rate at which that water was coming up here last night. I’ve only experienced a couple of floods but it reminded me of the Hunter River and the roaring noise it makes at Maitland when it’s in full flood,” he said.

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State of emergency

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New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the area.

Mr O’Farrell toured the flood-affected region and said he signed the emergency declaration based on concerns that floodwaters had been expected to breach the levee.

“The Government’s determined to declare a state of emergency for Wagga Wagga to ensure the SES and other emergency service organisations involved have the maximum set of tools available for them to protect life and property,” Mr O’Farrell told Parliament.

“My advice confirmed on the ground in Wagga Wagga today is that if the levee is breached, it may not be possible for people to return to town for approximately three days.

“Should the levee not overflow or should it not be breached, the emergency declaration will be rescinded tomorrow morning (Wednesday).”

Murrumbidgee River peaks
1844 – 10.97m
1852 – 10.67m
1853 – 10.9m
1867 – 10.67m
1974 – 10.74m
Source: Wagga Wagga City Council.
Meanwhile about 600 people in Griffith and surrounding areas have been ordered to evacuate as floodwaters there continue to rise.

Residents in the central New South Wales town of Forbes have also been issued with an evacuation order.

SES spokeswoman Jennifer Finlay says 236 homes are being doorknocked in the Lachlan River area due to rising waters.

Another 400 people have been told to prepare to leave the communities of Leeton, Yanco and Barellan near Griffith.

Phillip Jones lives in Griffith, where there have also been evacuations.

‘We are facing I suppose a flood of a proportion we have not seen in the past. We’ve had a lot of rain nor-east of Griffith up in the rural creek catchment. It is thousands and thousands of acres of water,” he said.

First posted March 07, 2012 01:41:33

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Nathalia residents told to leave or risk being trapped

Updated March 07, 2012 07:04:14

The residents of Nathalia are bracing for one of the biggest floods in almost a decade to hit their town, and they are being urged to get out.

But those who are taking their chances, there will still be plenty of support.

Some residents are putting their faith in a new 750-metre temporary levee that has been erected along the banks of Broken Creek.

The creek is expected to peak tonight night or Thursday at up to 3.6 metres, just above the 1993 flood level.

Anchored by sandbags, the new metal levee is based on a system used in the Netherlands and was bought after floods hit the town in 1993.

Authorities are confident the levee will hold but are making no guarantees.

Local businessman Rex James says he is impressed.

“I think it’s pretty good. There’s not many towns that have got anywhere near what we’ve got here,” he said.

He has also been helping organise the sandbagging around the town.

“We’ve had to go up a bit higher than what the levee bank is, just to make sure, along with everyone else,” he said.

Mr Rex lived through the 1993 floods.

“All the yard, all the mill went under water in 1993, but the house survived,” he said.

And while he does not believe the floods will reach the 1993 levels, he is not taking any chances.

“We’ll all survive one way or the other.”

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Urged to leave

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Seventeen homes are at immediate risk of inundation, while another 170 are at the mercy of the levee banks.

The elderly and people with health issues are being urged to leave the town.

The manager of the Maloga Aged Care Hostel, Geraldine Atkinson, says the centre is preparing for an evacuation.

“That’s the one thing we’re trying not to do, is stress,” he said.

“We’re just keeping it very level. We’re in that mode that they’re going on a holiday, but it’s all good and we will be out of here by roughly lunch time tomorrow.”

Joy Hutchins has been living in the town for almost 40 years.

She is making her own arrangements.

“I’ll go over the bridge, there’s an empty house there that I’ve organised to use,” she said.

“I’ve been through it twice before, so I’m not too concerned about it.

Those who have decided to stay put, were told at a local community briefing that they were doing so at their own risk.

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Health Hazards

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The Premier Ted Baillieu says the floodwaters in Victoria’s north-east will create health hazards.

Several towns remain at least partially cut-off by floodwaters, including Numurkah, where 40 homes and businesses went under water.

Downstream, where residents at Nathalia are bracing for major flooding, Mr Baillieu is warning communities the water will take some time to recede.

“There’s an enormous amount of water lying around on that floodplain, and that will be there for some days.

“It’s some 70 to 80km long, 30 to 40km wide.

“It’s likely to be there for some time, and that’s going to present health hazards, obviously with water, with sewage contamination in a number of directions, and safety issues.”

Speaking from the State Emergency Control Centre, Mr Baillieu said it is a big a event.

“I guess we can take some comfort that this isn’t as bad as it is in New South Wales, but this has nevertheless been a significant event, with record rainfalls in the last week,” he said.

He says there is still some work to do in Nathalia, but has thanked all those who helped to establish levee banks.

“I thank all those, including the thousands of volunteers, they’ve done a mighty job,”

“(But) there’s still more work to do,” he said.

Mr Baillieu also reminded anyone thinking of using the roads, to think again.

“We’ve seen again a tragedy in New South Wales and Queensland, associated with driving through flood waters,”

“It’s too dangerous, and everybody should be careful.”

Source: ABC News

 

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