NSW floods: Deniliquin residents face nervous wait for more rain as river continues to rise

Locals say they have never seen so many SES vehicles and army troops but feel uneasy due to a lack of information

The Covid-19 pandemic in the New South Wales-Victorian border town of Deniliquin was difficult but florists Brooke Wilson and Janine Clarke reckon the current flood emergency is worse.

Their local business, Deniliquin Florist, has been hit hard by the floods, with deliveries hampered and a growing sense of uneasiness in the town.

Wilson, who was in Deniliquin during the 2016 flood, said she did not remember that event being this “crazy and worrying”.

“I understand why locals are reacting weird because it feels different. It doesn’t feel like past floods.”

The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, visited Deniliquin this week and committed to ask the prime minister for exceptional circumstances funding for flood-affected communities.

Throughout the pandemic, Clarke said they never missed a flower delivery and it was probably the busiest the shop had ever been.

“It was great for business but this is the opposite; this isn’t good for business at all. People don’t want to be sending flowers at the moment.”

Widespread flooding continued across the state, with every inland river catchment either full or flooded. The NSW State Emergency Service had 99 active warnings; 16 at emergency warning level.

Late on Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a minor to major flood warning for the Murray and Edward rivers, with the Edward River at Deniliquin at 8.31 metres and “peaking”.

The executive assistant to the director of infrastructure at the Edward River council, Libby Braybon, said the council could only base its information on the latest warning.

“So if it’s changed and they’re saying it’s peaking, that’s the information that we go by as well,” she said.

“At this point, I think it’s pretty steady. When you look at the curve for the last two days, it’s really hovering around that 8.3 mark.”

Braybon said the river may continue to rise depending on the amount of rainfall forecast for Sunday.

“We’re just waiting and seeing,” she said.

Moderate flooding continued in Deniliquin, where roads had been closed and part of the town was already inundated.

Craig Butcher’s property in Deniliquin, Australia
Craig Butcher’s property in Deniliquin. Photograph: Fleur Connick/The Guardian
Craig Butcher on his property in Deniliquin, Australia
‘We knew this was going to happen,’ says Craig Butcher, who put his belongings in storage weeks ago. Photograph: Fleur Connick/The Guardian

A large proportion of Craig Butcher’s property was under water, including his shed, chook house and clothesline.

He said if the river reached 8.5 metres, the whole yard and under his house would be under water.

Although Butcher said it was an inconvenience, he had been preparing for two months and had hired a storage unit in anticipation.

“We had moved everything out weeks ago because we knew this was going to happen, with every dam being full around Australia.”

But Butcher said there was a sense of uneasiness in the community around the lack of information about how high the river would rise.

Edward River council crew installing wall at McLean Beach, Deniliquin, Australia
An Edward River council crew install a wall at McLean Beach in Deniliquin. Photograph: Fleur Connick/The Guardian

Deniliquin was on track for one of its wettest Octobers on record and had received approximately 183mm of rainfall so far this month.

On the edge of town, large lakes had formed across Steve King’s seven-acre property. In the 35 years he’s lived there, he had never seen it like this.

“It was a large amount of rain in a short period of time and the soil was already saturated,” he said. “I’ve gone from mowing [on Saturday] to being well and truly underwater.”

King’s house is located on the township side of the levee and he said all of the water on his property was solely from the recent rainfall.

“Basically, all the water in town is from the rain and all water outside is from the flood,” he said.

“My greatest concern is having a high river and rainfall. Those two don’t work.”

Deniliquin resident Steve King
Deniliquin resident Steve King said his greatest worry was a high river and rainfall – ‘those two don’t work’. Photograph: Fleur Connick/The Guardian

Clarke said the presence of emergency service crews and vehicles around the town was making locals nervous.

She’s lived in Deniliquin for 45 years but said she had never seen so many SES vehicles and army troops before.

“I think that’s disturbing even if they’re just doing their job.”

Wilson said they managed to get a fresh load of flowers delivered on Tuesday after friends volunteered to drive and collect flowers from towns such as Cobram and Wagga Wagga.


Fleur Connick

The GuardianTramp

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