Massive floodwaters swept across parts of Australia’s drought-parched south east, forcing hundreds of people to abandon their homes and businesses in the region’s worst deluge in nearly 40 years.
Several rivers in the Gippsland region of south-eastern Victoria state burst their banks yesterday after two days of heavy rain inundated the region after months of severe drought.
Police helicopters airlifted around 100 people to safety from several flooded towns and Victoria’s premier Steve Bracks warned residents downstream to brace for the onslaught today.
“There’s a body of water that’s coming,” Bracks told the Nine television network, adding that the floods were the worst Victoria had seen in 37 years.
Television footage showed a mile-wide river of muddy floodwaters engulfing homes, barns and paddocks, leaving herds of cattle stranded in ankle-deep swamps.
Arthur Williams and his 11-year-old nephew were among those rescued from the tiny hamlet of Tinamba.
“My nephew was crying as we were being airlifted because it was the first time anything like that happened to him, but for me it was quite a fun experience,” Williams told The Age newspaper. “It was amazing seeing the land from up high - there’s just water for miles.”
Geoff Ponsford, a farmer from near Tinamba, had been wading in water up to his armpits to check on his neighbours when he realised he needed to evacuate and called police for a helicopter airlift.
“They came and got me half an hour later,” he told The Age. “There was hardly a dry place any where. I was frozen. The lowest water was up to my knees.”
More than 90 people were evacuated from the nearby dairy farming town of Newry, around 120 miles north east of Melbourne, when the swollen Macalister River inundated the town.
Constable Rachel O’Brien said police helicopters would continue to search the area’s outlying farms today to search for anyone trapped by the floods.
Hundreds of displaced residents have fled to makeshift relief shelters, while the state and federal government have promised relief to help rebuild homes.