Victoria floods: Shepparton and Mooroopna ‘too late to leave’ as man found dead in Rochester backyard

Victorian authorities warn flooded rivers yet to peak and prepare for one of the largest evacuation operations in the state’s history

The emergency flood situation in Victoria’s north has intensified as authorities warn it is “too late to leave” for many.

Evacuation alerts have been upgraded for Shepparton, Orrvale, Kialla West and Mooroopna to reflect it is too late for residents to leave those areas.

The Midland Highway, also known as the Mooroopna Causeway, was slated to be closed on Sunday but authorities announced it would close between Mooroopna and Shepparton from 6.30pm on Saturday.

Properties in the region were expected to be impacted overnight on Saturday.

The Goulburn River was expected to peak at 12 metres at Shepparton on Tuesday, making the flood the area’s worst in decades.

An emergency evacuation directive was also issued for Echuca and Echuca Village, with authorities wanting residents to get out by last light on Saturday.

Some residents in Echuca could be away from their homes for many days as a second peak is expected mid-to-late next week.

Meanwhile, a man was found dead in flood waters at his home in Rochester in northern Victoria. The body of the man, 71, was found in the backyard of his home in High Street at about 9.30am on Saturday.

Victoria police and SES crews were initially unable to reach the property because it had been cut off by flood water. The man’s death was the first in the current flood crisis.

The Victoria police assistant commissioner, David Clayton, said emergency services were preparing for widespread displacement.

“We anticipate that in coming days we’re going to see some of the largest evacuations that we have ever seen,” he said.

By Saturday, more than 460 homes had been damaged by flood water rising above floor level and about 500 properties remained isolated.

The SES had performed about 350 rescues over the flood emergency.

Of those rescues, 160 happened at properties in Rochester when residents who chose to remain in their homes had to be saved, while 150 involved people being rescued from stranded vehicles.

Major flood warnings were issued for the Avoca River, Goulburn River, King River, Mount Emu Creek, Loddon Weir, Ovens River, Broken River and Seven Creeks.

In Melbourne, homes in the city’s inner west had been inundated after the Maribyrnong River broke its banks.

Stan Graddzki was living in the same Maribyrnong home when floods hit in 1974, and he remembered water “at about the same level, coming in through the windows it was that high”.

“I sandbagged the day before, I put plastic drop-sheets on the side of the wall of the house, but nothing could stop this water,” he said.

“We got hardly any warning. Usually it comes up out of the gutters, out of the drains, and it slowly creeps up. It didn’t creep up this time. Within an hour, the street was underwater, the next hour it was inside, it just kept coming and coming. Once it got to waist high, I knew there was nothing we could do.”

Graddzki said “the clean-up was the hardest”, with mud and debris strewn throughout his house, and the uncertainty over the process for making an insurance claim.

“But the community spirit is good, everyone is helping each other out. There’s a lot of good in people.”

In NSW, the Lachlan River reached major flood level in the central-west town of Forbes on Friday, with the centre of the town cut off. More than 2000 Forbes residents and 250 homes had been affected.

NSW SES southern zone commander Benjamin Pickup said it was possible rivers would rise rapidly even if the weather was fine due to the significant rainfall across western NSW over the past few weeks.

“The [flooding] will continue to move downstream, so we encourage residents to be aware of the conditions and monitor if they live near a watercourse,” he said.

The senior meteorologist with the bureau of meteorology, Jonathan How, said heavy rain cleared overnight but many areas had seen very high falls in recent weeks.

He said parts of southern and central NSW had set October rainfall records, including at Broken Hill in the state’s far west.

“Catchments are very, very wet and rivers have responded very, very quickly, and these rivers are expected to remain high for at least a few weeks,” he told ABC TV.

How said forecasters were watching another weather system, which could bring further rain to the east coast by the following weekend and lead to further river rises.

Tasmania’s acting premier, Michael Ferguson, warned that, while wind and rain have eased across the state, the risk of flooding had not eased.

“We’re not out of the woods yet at all – our waters are in fact still rising in a number of catchments and river systems,” Ferguson said Saturday.

“This is counterintuitive. With the rain effectively having abated, in fact the water is surging ... through the river systems, and there are two river systems that are still seeing waters predicted yet to peak.

“That means that there are yet more properties that can be subject to inundation [and] could be still subject to an evacuation order.”


Ben Doherty and AAP

The GuardianTramp

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