Wed, Jan 19, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Rising floodwaters force evacuations in south Australia

AP, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Authorities with megaphones urged residents of more towns in southern Australia to flee yesterday as swollen rivers carried deadly floodwaters deeper into another state and worsened a natural disaster the government says may be its costliest ever.

Victoria is the latest region afflicted in a weeks-long flooding crisis that has left 30 people dead and caused once-a-lifetime floods in many areas.

The city of Horsham resembled a lake after the Wimmera River overflowed its banks yesterday and bisected the community before starting to recede in the afternoon. About 500 homes in the city of 14,000 people were surrounded by water in floods.

Officials sent three emergency alerts overnight to residents in the path of the high water.

“At 5am they were out on the megaphone just yelling ‘evacuate,’” West Horsham resident Brett Insall said, but he stayed at his home. “I’m not too worried about it. It’s only water.”

Victoria 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,” Warren said.

Across north-central Victoria, more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes, with 51 towns and 1,500 properties already affected by rising waters.

The Wimmera River towns of Dimboola and Warracknabeal faced inundation in the next 24 hours, Victoria officials said. An evacuation warning was issued to residents of Kerang, who face isolation for at least three days when the Loddon River peaks.

Officials said any resident unable to cope without electricity, water, sewer and telephone connections should evacuate.

Floodwaters have already left 1,000 households in Victoria’s northwest without power, and thousands more homes are under threat of cuts as substations and low-lying power lines are submerged. Energy supplier Powercor was building earthen barriers around the substation in Kerang, in a floodplain expected to be inundated by 2m of water.

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