Flood Towns Face Days of Isolation

Victorian authorities are warning more towns in flooded areas will face up to a week of isolation as the number of affected communities continues to grow.

About one-quarter of the state has now been affected by the unprecedented floods and the Army has been deployed to many flood-stricken towns.

The Wimmera River peaked at Dimboola, in the state’s north-west, this afternoon.

Residents were forced to evacuate this morning ahead of the peak, which inundated five homes.

Residents who chose to stay are now isolated.

The owner of the Dimboola Riverside Caravan Park, Laverne Lehmann, says water is flooding the park.

“We’re sort of a bit isolated,” she said.

“We’re actually a little island now because we’ve got a series of billabongs that sit round behind us and they’re all full and the water’s come right up our drive.

“The only way we could get out of here is with a four-wheel drive and we don’t have one on the property at the moment.”

A relief centre has been set up at the Dimboola Secondary College.

In Kerang, further north-west, the town’s main levee continues to withstand pressure from the surrounding torrents.

Many among the town’s 3,500 population were evacuated yesterday, as fears rose the levee could be breached.

But the levee protected the town after the Loddon River reached its peak mid-morning.

Glenda Day is one of hundreds of Kerang residents who left yesterday and is now staying at an emergency relief centre in Cohuna.

“I’m fine, just feeling very anxious. I’m hoping that the bank will hold in Kerang,” she said.

“People have been absolutely wonderful here and I guess we’re just going from day to day.”

Around 1,000 residents remain in the town and say floodwaters are continuing to rise but properties remain dry.

But outside Kerang, farms have been completely inundated by water, and residents say it is continuing to rise.

Mary-Lou Smith owns a flooded dairy farm and says all she can do is retreat, as water lapping at the doors of her home continue to rise.

“Seeing is believing. Yesterday I was quite confident that we weren’t going to go under but today it’s just a wall of water,” she said.

Meanwhile the Victorian Government has set up an emergency field hospital in the flood-ravaged town of Charlton.

The town’s health service is unusable and the field clinic will operate from tents, run by the region’s doctors and medical staff.

More than 200 patients and aged care residents from the area have had to be relocated.

The next town in the path of the floods is the tiny community of Jeparit, where Sharon Reilly runs a fuel and rural supplies business.

“[We are] sandbagging quite a few of the houses around the lower end of Charles Street,” she said.

“I think no matter what happens, the water’s going to come, so we’ve just got to brace ourselves basically.”

Homes doorknocked

The SES says Swan Hill could also be flooded in coming days.

Authorities have been doorknocking in the town as enormous volumes of water continue downstream towards the Murray River.

And the Pyramid Creek has broken its banks at Kow Swamp, south-east of Kerang.

Residents have been urged to evacuate their homes as water levels continue to rise.

Premier Ted Baillieu is visiting the community of Pyramid Hill, south-west of the Kow Swamp area, which was evacuated this morning.

The north-west towns of Brim, Beulah and Jeparit also face flood threats in the coming days.

Elsewhere in the Wimmera, the levee is holding as water levels stabilise at Warracknabeal.

Earlier this week, volunteers with bobcats worked to shore up six kilometres of levees along the Yarriambiack Creek in Warracknabeal and lay down 42,000 sandbags.

The massive floods are still moving across the state, but the Victorian Opposition says a bipartisan review should be held to see if the floods could have been handled better.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews says the review should begin immediately.

He says the short-term priority is providing practical support to families and addressing public and mental health issues ahead of a massive clean-up, but a review would address medium and long-term problems.

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