Dozens of rural Australian communities are sandbagging their properties as they nervously watched four river systems rising from heavy rains upstream.
More than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes in north-central Victoria state, where some towns are predicting the worst floods in 100 years.
“In some of our river systems, we are seeing unprecedented stream rises,” said State Emergency Service operations director Trevor White, adding that the flood event was one of Victoria’s biggest since records began.
Neil Pankhurst, mayor of the Murray River port of Echuca, said the town’s levee was designed to withstand a one-in-100-year flood, which is dangerously close to what is expected.
“The levee is designed to contain a flood of the level we’re expecting and we believe it will hold,” Pankhurst said.
He said some low-lying properties were likely to be isolated by floodwaters but most homes would not have water above floor level, he said.
People were watching warily after witnessing the devastation floods have wreaked in Queensland state.
Three weeks of flooding in the north-eastern state left a vast territory under water and caused 28 deaths, most of them from a flash flood that hit towns west of Brisbane on Monday. Fourteen people are still missing.
In Grantham, 70% of the town remained cordoned off while the search for bodies continued.
“People I hope will understand the pressure that the police are working under in these sorts of circumstances and be patient,” Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said.